Evidence-based assessment of the impact of the WHI on women's health

H. G. Burger, Alastair H Maclennan, K. E. Huang, C Castelo-Branco

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleOtherpeer-review

43 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Following the announcement of the first results of the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) to the media in 2002, prior to their scientific publication, the resulting panic headlines had an immediate and lasting negative effect on use of menopausal hormone replacement therapy (HRT) around the world. Rates of use dropped by 4080%. Symptomatic women then sought multiple alternative therapies but the majority of these have no greater effect than the effect seen from placebo in well-conducted trials of HRT. Some of these therapies have risks. Although anecdotally most menopause practitioners after 2002 can attest to having to counsel large numbers of women with debilitating menopausal symptoms who were too frightened to consider HRT, it is difficult to document loss of health-related quality of life in large population studies as they were not conducted. Similarly, the positive or negative effects of the marked decline in HRT on long-term morbidities and mortality have yet to be fully assessed. Recent studies have shown an increase in postmenopausal fractures and in some, but not all, populations a small temporary decline in breast cancer. Cardiovascular outcomes may not be apparent for another decade. Short-term, randomized, placebo-controlled trials confirm that HRT is the only therapy that effectively improves health-related quality of life in symptomatic women through a reduction in vasomotor and urogenital symptoms, joint pains and insomnia, while improving sexuality. The results of the re-analyses of the WHI data and new data from other studies do not justify the continuing negative attitude to HRT in symptomatic women who start HRT near menopause.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)281-287
Number of pages7
JournalClimacteric
Volume15
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2012
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • BREAST CANCER
  • CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE
  • FRACTURES
  • HEALTH-RELATED QUALITY OF LIFE
  • IMPACT
  • WOMEN'S HEALTH
  • WOMEN'S HEALTH INITIATIVE

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