Transgender women face a litany of health risks in modern society — and a new study published this week reveals that there may be one more to add to the list.
The study, conducted by Kaiser Permanente, examined the medical history of 5,000 transgender patients over the course of eight years. It is the largest research project dealing with transgender people on hormone replacement therapy (HRT) ever conducted, NBC News reports. Comparing the data of transgender patients to that of over 97,000 cisgender patients, the study suggests that there may be a correlation between hormone therapy and an increased risk of "cardiovascular problems," including stroke, heart attack, and blood clots.
"Doctors and patients need to be aware of the possibility for increased health risks for transgender women," said Dr. Darios Getahun, one of the authors of the study, which was published Tuesday in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine. A similar risk was not identified for transgender men on hormone therapy. The study is, admittedly, not perfect, as Getahun cautioned that "direct cause and effect" would be difficult to prove; to conduct a traditional study, transgender women would have to be given placebo hormones without their knowledge or consent, which presents an ethical problem.
Still, the study is leaps ahead of older research on transgender women. Previous studies on hormone therapy have simply researched cisgender women going through menopause, and applied those findings to trans women, but this study found significant differences between the two groups.
Even with the results, the study authors predict transgender women would take the gamble. "I think most transgender women would conclude the risk is not high enough to forgo hormone therapy," said Dr. Joshua Safer, executive director of the Transgender Medicine Center at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York and study co-author. "The risks here are not different from many other medications and therapies that are used."
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