Some women won’t take the female hormone, estrogen after the menopause because they think that it increases their chances of developing breast cancer (1). Exciting new studies show that a male-like hormone, called tibolone, may give all the benefits of estrogen while lowering blood levels of estrogen and not increasing her chances of developing breast or uterine cancer (2,3).

Estrogen strengthens bones and prevents heart attacks, strokes, hot flushes, vaginal dryness, loss of height, lowered I.Q., Alzheimer’s disease, depression, anxiety, loss of teeth, osteoarthritis and colon cancer (4,5). Recent data show that the male-like hormone, tibolone, prevents hot flushes, anxiety, depression and lowered I.Q. (2,10), markedly increases a woman’s interst in making love (9) and strengthen bones more than the female hormone, estrogen, does (3,8). You would expect this because male hormones cause men to have much larger bones anyway.

Women with low blood levels of male hormones have little interest in making love. A recent report in the medical journal, Fertility and Sterility, shows that blood levels of male hormones drop significantly after the menopause (6). Male-like hormones, such a tibolone, can perk a woman’s sagging sexual drive. Tibolone has been prescribed in Europe for more than 8 years, although it not been approved for use in the United States. The only concern that has shown up so far is that, like testosterone, it lowers blood levels of the good HDL cholesterol which may increase a susceptible woman’s chances of suffering a heart attack. However, most studies show that this lowering is extremely small (7).

By Gabe Mirkin, M.D., for CBS Radio News

1) GA Colditz et al. The Use of estrogen and progestins and the risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal women. NEJM 1995 (June 15); 332 (24): 1589-1593.

2) M Milner, M Sinnott, D Gasparo, A Kelly, BK Carole, R Harrison. Climacteric symptoms, gonadotrophins, sex steroids, and binding proteins with conjugated equine estrogen-progestin and tibolone over two years. Menopause – the Journal of the North American Menopause Society 3: 4 (WIN 1996): 208-213.

3) C Egarter, J Huber, R Leikermoser, R Haidbauer, H Pusch, F Fischl, M Putz. Tibolone versus conjugated estrogens and sequential progestogen in the treatment of climacteric complaints. Maturitas 23: 1 (FEB 1996): 55-62.

4) FW Lafferty, ME Fiske. Postmenopausal estrogen replacement: A long-term cohort study. American Journal of Medicine 1994 (July); 97(1): 66-77.

5) Harlap S. The benefits and risks of hormone replacement therapy. Am J Obstet Gynecol 1992; 166: 1986.

6) T Mushayandebvu, VD Castracane, T Gimpel, T Adel, N Santoro. Evidence for diminished midcycle ovarian androgen production in older reproductive aged women. Fertility and Sterility 65: 4 (APR 1996): 721-723.

7) Milner MH, Sinnott MM, Cooke TM, McGill T, Harrison RF. A 2-year study of lipid and lipoprotein cvhanges in postmeopausal women with tibolone and estrogen-progestin. Obstet Gynecol 1996 (April); 87(4): 593-9.

8) GM Prelevic, C Bartram, J Wood, S Okolo, J Ginsburg. Comparative effects on bone mineral density of tibolone, transdermal estrogen and oral estrogen/progestogen therapy in postmenopausal women. Gynecological Endocrinology 10: 6 (DEC 1996): 413-420.

9) J Nathorstboos, M Hammar. Effect on sexual life – A comparison between tibolone and a continous estradiol-norethisterone acetate regimen. Maturitas 26: 1 (JAN 1997):15-20. 10) Ross LA, Alder EM. Tibolone and climacteric symptoms. Maturitas 1995 Feb; 21(2): 127-36.