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Second Chance For Hormone Therapy

The latest look at the use of hormone replacement therapy for women has found some reassuring news.

A new study, looking at women around 50 years old, finds the drugs are safe to take to treat menopausal symptoms, CBS News national correspondent Elizabeth Kaledin

on The Early Show. In fact, they might even be beneficial.

This development follows a widely publicized study by the Women's Health Initiative, which found that hormones increase a woman's risk of heart disease and stroke.

That study, based on women in their 60s, left younger, newly menopausal women scared, confused and afraid to treat their symptoms.

But the new research shows that hormones actually decreased heart disease risk by as much as 30 percent.

"The study is saying that if you start hormones at menopause, there is a protective effect," said Dr. Michelle Warren, a women's health expert.

The original WHI report, which was so alarming to menopausal women, was soundly criticized for drawing its conclusions based on data from postmenopausal women in their 60s.

This new study attempts to address that shortcoming and Warren says it should be reassuring.

"Younger women who are symptomatic shouldn't worry about taking hormones," she says.

However, Kaledin says the original conclusion from the WHI report holds true: that women should still not be taking hormone replacement therapy if they think it will prevent heart disease.

The WHI is now taking a second look at what younger women should do. So Kaledin says there will be plenty more to come on the subject.

But, for now, it looks like hormones are being given a second chance to do what they were originally supposed to do: treat menopausal symptoms for the short term.

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