The preponderance of data support the benefits of HRT in estrogen-deprived and menopausal women to reduce the risks of osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease and to enhance quality of life and life expectancy. Controversies exist with regards to the risk-benefit ratio in women with a history of estrogen-dependent gynecologic tumors or breast cancer. Until these issues are resolved, physicians must carefully weigh, on an individual basis for each patient, the potential risks against the known benefits. Women should be counseled regarding the benefits of exercise, weight control, breast feeding, and cessation of cigarette smoking or excessive alcohol to reduce their risks of cancer, cardiac disease, and/or osteoporosis. HRT is not a panacea for an unhealthy lifestyle. When ERT is contraindicated, viable alternatives to retard bone loss and/or control vasomotor symptoms include calcium supplementation and progestin therapy. The role of tamoxifen as an alternative HRT in women at increased risk for breast cancer development is currently under investigation.
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