May 15, 2013
New Evidence Shows Hysterectomy Does Not Increase Risk Of Heart Disease
Brett Smith for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
While previous research has shown a connection between the medical removal of a woman´s uterus and heart problems, a new study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology has found no evidence of an increased risk.
Commonly referred to as a hysterectomy, the removal of the uterus is the second most common surgery among American women.
"Middle-aged women who are considering hysterectomy should be encouraged because our results suggest that increased levels of cardiovascular risk factors are not any more likely after hysterectomy relative to after natural menopause," said co-author Karen A. Matthews, a professor of epidemiology and psychology at the University of Pittsburgh.
While the slow decline of estrogen after menopause has been linked to increased heart risks for women of a certain age, studies of the risks associated with hysterectomies have produced mixed results.
The study, which involved more than 3,000 women who were followed over 10 years, found that heart risk biomarkers like cholesterol, signs of inflammation and high blood pressure were not distinctly worse for women who had an elective hysterectomy, compared to those who did not have the operation.
Part of the data used in the study was taken from the Study of Women's Health Across the Nation (SWAN), a large, multi-ethnic research cohort that were monitored over a decade or more to document the experiences of American women during and after menopause.
That study included over 1,900 pre-menopausal women that were between 42 and 52 years old when the study began in 1996. Through 2008, the women received annual checkups regarding their medical status and whether or not they had started menopause or had their uterus removed.
None of the 180 women that underwent the hysterectomy showed higher risk indicators than the over 1,700 women who went through menopause without the procedure.
Matthews emphasized that the study´s findings apply to women who are not having any more children, in their forties and are considering a hysterectomy to solve quality of life problems. Many women elect to have the surgery because of cancer risks and this study´s findings did not apply to them, the researcher said.
"Our study really couldn't examine that question because we had too few women who had gynecological cancers, and the equation changes when you have gynecological cancer," Matthews told Reuters Health.
Matthews said the issue of cancer could be one reason why their results are different from previous studies. However, she said there could be other explanations, including changes in the behaviors of modern women that are different and somehow beneficial compared to women involved in previous research.
American College of Cardiology medical expert Dr. JoAnne Foody, MD, FACC, took the study´s results as a sign that American women should be less apprehensive about a surgery that could improve their quality of life and bring long-term relief.
"This study will prove very reassuring to women who have undergone hysterectomy," she said." As with anything, if a woman is concerned about her risk for heart disease she should discuss this with her health care provider."