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“Risk is also age-related,” Isaacs said. The safest candidate is a young woman who may have had a hysterectomy, who uses low doses over a short time and uses a patch. A patch is safer than a pill because a pill can lead to blood clots, he said.
What about bio-identicals?
The term implies that bio-identical hormones are similar to the ones produced by the body. But all bio-identical hormones are synthetically made. The term, which is used for marketing, isn’t recognized by the Food and Drug Administration.
Often marketed as a health tonic that’s a “natural” or “safer” alternative to prescription drugs, bio-identical hormones became popular after the Women’s Health Initiative scared many menopausal women away from conventional treatment. But “there’s no proof that they are safer or more effective than traditional hormones,” Isaacs said.
Alternative treatments for hot flashes
For natural treatments, breathing, relaxation techniques and clinical hypnosis show the most promise.
American Indians traditionally used the herb black cohosh to treat menstrual irregularity; research suggests it could have a role in menopause. But a systematic review of 16 studies found there’s not enough evidence to support the use of black cohosh. Phytoestrogens, which are found in soy, have run into the same problem. Though popular, the studies are of poor quality, and, so far, soy hasn’t been shown to be effective.