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LE Magazine March 2001

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Synthetic Estrogen/Heart Disease

Effect of postmenopausal hormones on inflammation-sensitive proteins: the Postmenopausal Estrogen/Progestin Interventions (PEPI) Study.

BACKGROUND: Observational studies in healthy women suggest postmenopausal hormone therapy reduces risk of coronary events. In contrast, in a recent clinical trial of women with coronary disease, a subgroup analysis demonstrated increased risk during the early months of therapy. Because higher levels of inflammation factors predict vascular disease outcomes, the effect of hormones on these factors is of interest. METHODS AND RESULTS: Four inflammation-sensitive factors, C-reactive protein, soluble E-selectin, von Willebrand factor antigen, and coagulation factor VIIIc were measured at baseline, 12, and 36 months in 365 participants of the Postmenopausal Estrogen/Progestin Interventions (PEPI) Trial, a randomized, placebo-controlled trial of the effects of 4 hormone preparations on cardiovascular disease risk factors. Compared with placebo, all 4 active preparations resulted in a large sustained increase in the concentration of C-reactive protein and a decrease in soluble E-selectin (P=0.0001). There were no effects of treatment on concentrations of von Willebrand factor or factor VIIIc. There were no differences in effects among treatment arms. Relative to placebo, when combining active treatment arms, final concentrations of C-reactive protein were 85% higher whereas E-selectin was 18% lower compared with baseline. CONCLUSIONS: Postmenopausal hormones rapidly increased the concentration of the inflammation factor C-reactive protein. Such an effect may be related to adverse early effects of estrogen therapy. In contrast, hormones reduced the concentration of soluble E-selectin, and this might be considered an anti-inflammatory effect. Because PEPI was not designed to assess clinical endpoints, studies of the impact of hormone-mediated changes in inflammation on risk of subsequent coronary events are needed.

Circulation 1999 Aug 17;100(7):717-22

Both raloxifene and estrogen reduce major cardiovascular risk factors in healthy postmenopausal women: A 2-year, placebo-controlled study.

Currently raloxifene, a selective estrogen receptor modulator, is being investigated as a potential alternative for postmenopausal hormone replacement to prevent osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease. We compared the 2-year effects of raloxifene on a wide range of cardiovascular risk factors with those of placebo and conjugated equine estrogens (CEEs). Analyses were based on 56 hysterectomized but otherwise healthy postmenopausal women aged 54. 8+/-3.5 (mean+/-SD) years who entered this double-blind study and who were randomly assigned to raloxifene hydrochloride 60 mg/d (n=15) or 150 mg/d (n=13), placebo (n=13), or CEEs 0.625 mg/d (n=15). At baseline and after 6, 12, and 24 months of treatment, we assessed serum lipids, blood pressure, glucose metabolism, C-reactive protein, and various hemostatic parameters. Compared with placebo, both raloxifene and CEEs lowered the level of low density lipoprotein cholesterol by 0.53 to 0.79 mmol/L (all P<0.04) and lowered, at 24 months, the level of fibrinogen by 0.71 to 0.86 g/L (all P<0.05). The effects of raloxifene and CEEs did not differ significantly. In contrast to raloxifene, from 6 months on CEEs increased high density lipoprotein cholesterol by 0.25 to 0.29 mmol/L and reduced plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 antigen by 30.6 to 48.6 ng/mL (all P<0.02 versus both placebo and raloxifene). CEEs transiently increased C-reactive protein by 1.0 mg/L at 6 months (P<0.05 versus placebo) and prothrombin-derived fragment F1+2 by 0. 79 nmol/L at 12 months (P<0.001 versus placebo). Finally, from 12 months on, CEEs increased triglycerides by 0.33 to 0.56 mmol/L (all P<0.05 versus both placebo and raloxifene). Our findings suggest that in healthy postmenopausal women, raloxifene and estrogen monotherapy have similar beneficial effects on low density lipoprotein cholesterol and fibrinogen levels. These treatments differ, however, in their effects on high density lipoprotein cholesterol, triglycerides, and plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 and possibly in their effects on prothrombin fragment F1+2 and C-reactive protein.

Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol 1999 Dec;19(12):2993-3000

Randomized trial of estrogen plus progestin for secondary prevention of coronary heart disease in postmenopausal women. Heart and Estrogen/Progestin Replacement Study (HERS) Research Group.

CONTEXT: Observational studies have found lower rates of coronary heart disease (CHD) in postmenopausal women who take estrogen than in women who do not, but this potential benefit has not been confirmed in clinical trials. OBJECTIVE: To determine if estrogen plus progestin therapy alters the risk for CHD events in postmenopausal women with established coronary disease. DESIGN: Randomized, blinded, placebo-controlled secondary prevention trial. SETTING: Outpatient and community settings at 20 US clinical centers. PARTICIPANTS: A total of 2763 women with coronary disease, younger than 80 years, and postmenopausal with an intact uterus. Mean age was 66.7 years. INTERVENTION: Either 0.625 mg of conjugated equine estrogens plus 2.5 mg of medroxyprogesterone acetate in 1 tablet daily (n = 1380) or a placebo of identical appearance (n = 1383). Follow-up averaged 4.1 years; 82% of those assigned to hormone treatment were taking it at the end of 1 year, and 75% at the end of 3 years. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: The primary outcome was the occurrence of nonfatal myocardial infarction (MI) or CHD death. Secondary cardiovascular outcomes included coronary revascularization, unstable angina, congestive heart failure, resuscitated cardiac arrest, stroke or transient ischemic attack, and peripheral arterial disease. All-cause mortality was also considered. RESULTS: Overall, there were no significant differences between groups in the primary outcome or in any of the secondary cardiovascular outcomes: 172 women in the hormone group and 176 women in the placebo group had MI or CHD death (relative hazard [RH], 0.99; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.80-1.22). The lack of an overall effect occurred despite a net 11% lower low-density lipoprotein cholesterol level and 10% higher high-density lipoprotein cholesterol level in the hormone group compared with the placebo group (each P<.001). Within the overall null effect, there was a statistically significant time trend, with more CHD events in the hormone group than in the placebo group in year 1 and fewer in years 4 and 5. More women in the hormone group than in the placebo group experienced venous thromboembolic events (34 vs 12; RH, 2.89; 95% CI, 1.50-5.58) and gallbladder disease (84 vs 62; RH, 1.38; 95% CI, 1.00-1.92). There were no significant differences in several other end points for which power was limited, including fracture, cancer, and total mortality (131 vs 123 deaths; RH, 1.08; 95% CI, 0.84-1.38). CONCLUSIONS: During an average follow-up of 4.1 years, treatment with oral conjugated equine estrogen plus medroxyprogesterone acetate did not reduce the overall rate of CHD events in postmenopausal women with established coronary disease. The treatment did increase the rate of thromboembolic events and gallbladder disease. Based on the finding of no overall cardiovascular benefit and a pattern of early increase in risk of CHD events, we do not recommend starting this treatment for the purpose of secondary prevention of CHD. However, given the favorable pattern of CHD events after several years of therapy, it could be appropriate for women already receiving this treatment to continue.

JAMA 1998 Aug 19;280(7):605-13

Changes in micronutrient concentrations following anti-inflammatory treatment in patients with gastrointestinal cancer.

Circulating concentrations of vitamin antioxidants (retinol, alpha-tocopherol, lutein, lycopene, alpha- and beta-carotene) and trace elements (zinc, copper, iron and selenium) plus carrier proteins (albumin, transferrin, caeruloplasmin) in gastrointestinal cancer patients (n = 12) with an inflammatory response (as demonstrated by an elevated C-reactive protein concentration) were compared with a control group (n = 12). Further, the effect of moderating the inflammatory response, using the anti-inflammatory agent ibuprofen, on these measurements was examined in the cancer group. The control and cancer groups were similar in terms of age, sex, and body mass index. However, the cancer group had significantly higher C-reactive protein concentrations (P < 0.001). Concentrations of vitamin antioxidants and trace elements (and carrier proteins) were significantly lower (P < 0.001), except copper (ceruloplasmin) which was significantly higher (P < 0.05). After anti-inflammatory treatment, there were small but significant increases in lutein, lycopene, and beta-carotene (P < 0.05) and in iron and selenium (P < 0.05), whereas ceruloplasmin decreased (P < 0. 05). The micronutrient concentrations in the cancer patients remained different from those in the control subjects. These results support the concept that the magnitude of inflammation plays an important role in the regulation of circulating concentrations of vitamin antioxidants and trace elements in patients with gastrointestinal cancer.

Nutrition 2000 Jun;16(6):425-8

Plasma concentration of C-reactive protein in patients with high estrogen levels.

The monitoring of inflammatory activity in patients with a high level of estrogen is controversial because the significance of a raised estradiol level on C-reactive protein (CRP) concentrations is a debated question. This prompted us to assay CRP by a sensitive Elisa in a sample of 30 patients with ovarian stimulation for in vitro fertilization, thus with high levels of estradiol. For 15 of these women, six to nine plasma samples were analyzed allowing a kinetic study of plasma levels of CRP, estradiol and sex steroid-binding plasma protein (SBP). No significant correlation was found between the concentrations of estradiol and CRP for the 30 patients. In the kinetic study, as mean estradiol levels rose exponentially from 50 to 1400 ng/l between day 5 and 14, the CRP level tended to vary markedly from one patient to another and sometimes from day to day, but there was never any relation with estradiol level. Furthermore, CRP did not significantly modify the slope of the regression line between estradiol concentration and the day of the menstrual cycle. In contrast, the effect of estradiol on SBP was clear, which supports the absence of estradiol effect on CRP level.

Ann Biol Clin (Paris) 1994;52(2):125-8

Hormone replacement therapy and sensitive C-reactive protein concentrations in women with type-2 diabetes.

C-reactive protein concentrations as a marker of inflammation predicts vascular risk and is raised in type-2 diabetes. In a 6-month double-blind placebo controlled trial, a combination of transdermal oestradiol 80 microg with continuous oral norethisterone 1 mg significantly reduced C-reactive protein concentrations in postmenopausal women with type-2 diabetes.

Lancet 1999 Aug 7;354(9177):487-8

Increased C-reactive protein levels during short-term hormone replacement therapy in healthy postmenopausal women.

OBJECTIVE: To study the short-term effect of unopposed oestradiol (E2) and sequentially combined hormone replacement therapy (E2 + P) on C-reactive protein (CRP) in healthy postmenopausal women. DESIGN: Prospective, randomised, placebo-controlled 12-week study. Sixty healthy. normotensive, non-hysterectomised postmenopausal women received either placebo (N = 16) or daily 2 mg micronised oestradiol, either unopposed (N = 16, E2 group) or sequentially combined with a progestagen on 14 days of each cycle (N = 28, E2+P group). Data were collected at baseline and at 4 and 12 weeks. RESULTS: CRP levels increased significantly during the 12 weeks in the E2 and the E2+P groups compared to placebo. No differences were found between the E2 group and the E2+P group [E2 and E2+P group together (N = 44) versus placebo: P = 0.01; E2 versus E2+P: P = 0.75]. To give a quantitative estimate of the increase, the median change calculated from baseline in both treatment groups together was +87% (P = 0.02) at 4 weeks, and +114% (P = 0.08) at 12 weeks, as compared to the placebo group. CONCLUSION: In healthy postmenopausal women, short-term treatment with E2 or E2+P was associated with a rapid rise in CRP concentrations. These observations raise the possibility that the increased risk of cardiovascular events is related to an initial increase in CRP levels after starting hormone replacement therapy.

Thromb Haemost 1999 Jun;81(6):925-8

The effects of hormone replacement therapy and raloxifene on C-reactive protein and homocysteine in healthy postmenopausal women: a randomized, controlled trial.

C-Reactive protein and homocysteine are independent risk factors for the development of cardiovascular disease. This study compared the effects of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and raloxifene on serum C-reactive protein and homocysteine levels as markers of cardiovascular risk in healthy postmenopausal women. Healthy postmenopausal women (n = 390) were enrolled in a double blind, randomized, placebo-controlled, 6-month trial at eight out-patient sites in the United States. Women were randomly assigned to receive continuous combined HRT (0.625 mg/day conjugated equine estrogen and 2.5 mg/day medroxyprogesterone acetate), raloxifene (60 or 120 mg/day), or placebo for 6 months. C-Reactive protein and homocysteine were measured in baseline and 6-month serum samples. HRT increased C-reactive protein levels by 84% (P<0.001), whereas raloxifene (60 and 120 mg/day) had no significant effect (-6% and -4%;, respectively; P>0.2). Raloxifene (60 and 120 mg/day) significantly lowered serum levels ofhomocysteine by 8% (P = 0.014) and 6% (P = 0.024), respectively, similar to the 7% (P = 0.014) reduction obtained with HRT. We conclude that HRT and raloxifene lower serum homocysteine levels to a comparable extent in postmenopausal women. Whereas cardiovascular risk predicted by C-reactive protein in healthy postmenopausal women is not influenced by raloxifene, the relationship between elevated C-reactive protein levels with HRT and cardiovascular disease events requires further study.

J Clin Endocrinol Metab 2000 Jan;85(1):214-8

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