We want to start with the basics about Hormone Replacement Therapy, so you can get up to speed on the importance of MiraKind’s new study. In this article, we’ll cover what Hormone Replacement Therapy is, what we know about it now, and what we don’t know and are hoping to learn more about with MiraKind’s new study!
So what is Hormone Replacement Therapy? Hormone Replacement Therapy, or HRT, can refer to numerous things, but we’ll be discussing the use of estrogen and/or progesterone to help mitigate or relieve various symptoms of menopause – this can also be referred to as Menopause Hormone Therapy (MHT). We’ll also dig a little deeper and talk about the other possible benefits of HRT, like how the use of estrogen can reduce the risk of osteoporosis in postmenopausal individuals and how MiraKind’s research indicates that HRT could be beneficial to people with the KRAS-variant.
Estrogen production in the body decreases after a person is no longer menstruating and the supply of eggs in the ovary is diminished. Perimenopause typically happens in one’s ’40s and can last anywhere from 3 to 10 years, averaging about 4 years. Menstruation still occurs during this time, but the onset of symptoms like hot flashes, fatigue, brain fog, and vaginal dryness can occur. Menopause itself happens after a person has had their last period; the average age for this is 51 years old. And those symptoms mentioned earlier – hot flashes, brain fog, etc. – yep, they continue into menopause and can persist of up to 10 years postmenopause! These symptoms are the result of the hormone changes brought on by menopause, and can really negatively impact the quality of life for many individuals.
Beyond just being able to alleviate numerous menopause symptoms, studies have also shown how HRT can be beneficial in the prevention of osteoporosis in menopausal and post-menopausal women, as a decrease in estrogen leads to bone loss. Additionally, studies are also indicating the benefits of estrogen for preventing dementia and improving some measures of heart health.
Now you may be thinking if we know so much about estrogen and all of these health benefits it provides – what exactly is MiraKind trying to study and why?
A major area of controversy around prescribing HRT for its various benefits stems from concerns about HRT and breast cancer risk.
In 2002, the Women’s Health Initiative published their initial findings on a set of trials that were designed to look at the long-term benefits of HRT for the prevention of heart disease. One of the trials, looking at estrogen + progesterone use, was reported to have been stopped after investigators found no coronary benefit, but rather a small increase in breast cancer risk. The results of these studies were widely spread by the media and resulted in a drastic decrease in HRT use in the US and UK. Unfortunately, these studies had several shortcomings – including the age of participants, especially regarding their use of HRT relative to the onset of menopause. Also, since the release of these findings, more research has come out highlighting the benefits of HRT for menopausal individuals.
Research from the lab of Dr. Joanne Weidhaas, MiraKind’s founder and CEO, found a biomarker in the KRAS gene that indicates an increased risk of breast, ovarian, and lung cancer. Further research suggests that estrogen may play a protective role in individuals with this KRAS-variant for the prevention of cancer. MiraKind supports studies that use what we learn from research in the lab and take it a step further to really help us educate individuals with the KRAS-variant. Now MiraKind is conducting a study to learn more about the role of HRT in breast cancer risk, and we’d love your help!