Estrogen therapy (ET) and hormone therapy (HT) have been shown to reduce bone loss, increase bone density in both the spine and hip, and reduce the risk of hip and spine fractures in postmenopausal women. ET and HT are approved for preventing postmenopausal osteoporosis and are most commonly administered in the form of a pill or skin patch.
When estrogen therapy is taken alone, it can increase a woman's risk of developing cancer of the uterine lining (endometrial cancer). To eliminate this risk, physicians prescribe the hormone progestin -- also known as hormone therapy (HT) -- in combination with estrogen for those women who have not had a hysterectomy.
Side effects of ET/HT include vaginal bleeding, breast tenderness, mood disturbances, blood clots in the veins, and gallbladder disease.
Any estrogen therapy should be prescribed for the shortest amount of time possible. When used solely for the prevention of postmenopausal osteoporosis, any ET/HT regimen should only be considered for women at significant risk of osteoporosis, and nonestrogen medications should be carefully considered first.