An example of medical intervention gone wrong?

In the last two months, there have been revelations in the media on the problems of long-term hormone therapy use. A new study that tracked thousands of women for nearly twenty years revealed that women who took estrogen were, on average, 1 1/2 times more likely to develop ovarian cancer. That risk increased dramatically the longer the women took the medicine. Women who took estrogen for 20 years or more were three times more likely to develop ovarian cancer than those who did not take the pills.

I have written on this subject before, but a recent report published in the medical journal JAMA on February 13, 2002, has concluded that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) increases risk for breast cancer. In the study mentioned, investigators evaluated whether risk for HRT-associated breast cancer differs by histological type (area of breast affected). The results showed that risk for breast cancer was 60% to 85% higher in women who used oral estrogen alone or together with progestin during 5 years before their diagnoses than it was in those who never had used HRT.

Some recent studies have shown a link between Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and the use of antibiotics. Although acute antibiotic associated diarrhea is well known, these studies have shown a connection between short-term use of antibiotics and more persistent irritable bowel symptoms. This may give many people an answer as to why they may be afflicted with IBS symptoms, even months after taking a single course of antibiotics. In one study, the most frequent antibiotic given was amoxicillin, the most common antibiotic used and the one most often given to children for ear infections.

One of the most common medical treatments being given today is forms of hormone replacement therapy for women going through and after the menopause. One of the most important reasons for this treatment is the prevention of osteoporosis, a deterioration in the quality and strength of bones due to hormonal changes during this time. Another reason advocating this therapy is for the prevention of heart disease. The therapy has become so popular now that doctors often advocate it without any clinical reasons to do so, merely as a preventative treatment.