Progesterone safe for cardiovascular health

Issue: BCMJ, vol. 56, No. 2, March 2014, Page 98 News

Treating severe hot flashes and night sweats in postmenopausal women with progesterone poses little or no cardiovascular risk, according to a study by the University of British Columbia and Vancouver Coastal Health.

The findings, published in PLOS ONE, help to dispel a major impediment to widespread use of progesterone as a treatment for hot flashes and night sweats, according to Dr Jerilynn C. Prior, a professor of endocrinology and head of the Centre for Menstrual Cycle and Ovulation Research.

For decades, women used a combination of synthetic estrogen and progesterone to reduce the frequency and severity of hot flashes and night sweats, as well as to prevent osteoporosis. Use of this so-called hormone replacement therapy dropped dramatically after 2002 when a large study revealed that it increased risk of heart disease, breast cancer, stroke, and other serious conditions.

To evaluate the cardiovascular risk of using progesterone to alleviate symptoms, Dr Prior recruited 110 healthy Vancouver-area women who had recently reached postmenopause, giving half of them oral progesterone and the others a placebo for 3 months. The team used each woman’s age and changes in blood pressure and cholesterol levels to calculate their 10-year risk of a heart attack and other blood vessel diseases and found no difference between those taking progesterone and the control group. The study also found no significant difference on most other markers for cardiovascular disease.

Dr Prior has been prescribing progesterone since 1995 for postmenopausal women to treat flashes and night sweats, and for perimenopausal women to alleviate hot flashes, heavy menstrual flow, and sore breasts. In a randomized controlled study published in 2012 Dr Prior showed that progesterone significantly reduced the intensity and frequency of night sweats and hot flashes, compared to a placebo, in postmenopausal women. Dr Prior is now recruiting Canadian women for a similar study examining progesterone’s effectiveness for treating perimenopausal night sweats and hot flashes. For more information, visit

. Progesterone safe for cardiovascular health. BCMJ, Vol. 56, No. 2, March, 2014, Page(s) 98 - News.

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