"The recommendations don't apply to women who are interested in hormone therapy to manage the symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes," the statement by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force said.
"They also don't apply to women younger than age 50 who have had a hysterectomy -- surgery to remove the uterus -- that resulted in menopause."
Many women take the hormones estrogen and progestin for a short period of time as they go through menopause to help reduce symptoms such as hot flashes and vaginal dryness. Women who have had a hysterectomy and are going through menopause also take estrogen.
However, many women live for 30 years or more after menopause and as they get older, their risk of heart disease, breast cancer, fractures and dementia increase. Some research initially suggested that continuing hormone pills for the long term, after menopausal symptoms have ended, might reduce the risk of some of these chronic conditions, the statement said.
The task force found that taking both estrogen and progestin after menopause reduced the risk of fractures. However, the task force found this type of hormone therapy also has important potential harms -- it can increase the risk of breast cancer, stroke, blood clots and gallbladder disease. It also can increase the risk of dementia and urinary incontinence.
The task force found taking estrogen alone after menopause -- a choice only safe for women who have had a hysterectomy -- reduced the risk of fractures and appears to reduce the risk of breast cancer. However, the task force found this type of hormone therapy also has important potential harms. It can increase the risk of stroke, blood clots, gallbladder disease and urinary incontinence, the statement said.