The Women’s Health Initiative Studies, Ten Years Later

By Rachel Walden |

Although the Women’s Health Initiative trials, which studied different aspects of postmenopausal women’s health, began in 1991, the real game-changing results from the trials happened 10 years ago, in 2002, when the trial of estrogen plus progestin hormone therapy was stopped early. The trial was stopped because those responsible for monitoring trial safety found an increased risk of breast cancer, along with risks for heart attacks, strokes and blood clots to the lungs and legs.

This was major news at the time, because many, many women had been prescribed this combination hormone therapy under the assumption that it might actually protect them from heart disease, cancer, and stroke.

Today, both consumer advocate organizations like the National Women’s Health Network and the federal U.S. Preventive Services Task Force seem to agree that hormone therapy should not be used for the prevention of these diseases.

Earlier this month, in honor of the 10 year anniversary of the halting of the trials, the National Women’s Health Network hosted a blog carnival about hormone therapy. Among the posts:

  • Dr. Sharima Rasanayagam of the Breast Cancer Fund writes about hormone therapy, chemical exposures, and breast cancer risk.
  • Karuna Jaggar of Breast Cancer Action on the importance of independently funded research, including the WHI (full post here)
  • Cindy Pearson, Executive Director of the National Women’s Health Network, on the importance of the WHI and the need for ongoing research and “protections against misleading promotion of unproven and unsafe drugs.”
  • Amy Allina, also of NWHN, writes about “challenging unproven medicine and saving lives.”
  • Also, an interview with Dr. Vivian Pinn, former Director of the NIH’s Office of Research on Women’s Health, NIH, on the importance and impact of the WHI trials.

You can find these and other posts on NWHN’s blog.

The NWHN is also collecting stories from women took or were offered hormone therapy before the WHI; who refused it because of the study’s findings; were involved in the study as researchers or participants; and other health care providers, advocates, and individuals affected by the WHI.

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One Comment

  1. Carol says:

    Please also address the difference in hormone therapies: horse urine-derived hormones (Premarin, etc.) taken orally vs. the plant-derived hormones (bioidenticals) administered topically.