For women of menopausal age or those who have had hysterectomies, oestrogen may reduce their chances of developing heart disease, new research has found.
Menopausal women who were given a standard dose of oral conjugated oestrogens were found to have significantly less coronary artery calcification.
The trials showed that calcified artery plaque was 20 to 40 per cent lower in women who took oestrogen compared to those taking a placebo.
Dr Elizabeth Nabel said: "These new results offer some reassurance to younger women who have had a hysterectomy and who would like to use hormone therapy on a shirt-term basis to ease menopausal symptoms."
The study's senior author, Dr Marcia Stefanick, said: "Heart disease is complex and the effect of oestrogen on one risk factor does not adequately predict the risk of having a heart attack."
They also pointed out that it is difficulty, at this stage, to tell if the level of calcification will continue to be an effective indicator of heart disease risk as women get older.
Trials are ongoing to provide information about the negative effects of taking oestrogen and its long-term impact on heart disease risk.