The decision to remove the ovaries in women with no family history of ovarian cancer became more controversial in the wake of the dramatic decline of HRT use among women to alleviate menopausal symptoms. In the WHI trial, HRT was associated with higher risks of cancer, heart disease and strokes.
"Our study was definitely not a study about the use of hormone therapy," Jacoby said.
While some studies have indicated that retaining ovaries after a hysterectomy helps women fight off bone-thinning osteoporosis, the new research suggests that those without ovaries may not suffer additional risks, the study said.
Also, differences in hormone levels between women who keep or lose their ovaries are not sufficient to show a demonstrable effect on health outcomes, Jacoby said. In fact, those retaining their ovaries during hysterectomy report lower rates of subsequent ovarian cancer than women who don't ever have the surgery.
Of the 25,448 women studied, those with ovary removal had a slightly higher prevalence of treated high blood pressure and angina, but didn't report more prior cardiovascular problems such as heart attack, stroke or pulmonary blood clots.
Even among women with no family history of ovarian cancer, some might opt to have their ovaries removed during hysterectomy anyway because of a history of breast cancer, said Dr. Elizabeth Poynor, a gynecologic oncologist and pelvic surgeon at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
"Removing the ovaries potentially decreased the risk of developing breast cancer in elevated-risk women," Poynor said. "They can travel hand-in-hand in some families."
While the majority of the women in this study had used HRT after menopause, seemingly without ill effects, Poynor said that doesn't mean it's safe to use supplemental hormones.
"Hormone replacement therapy and management of ovaries is highly individualized medicine," she said. "But we feel we have a respon
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