Since the Women’s Health Initiative found in 2002 that estrogen therapy had the potential for negative side effects and even higher mortality rates, hormone replacement therapy treatments have dropped among women in the United States. The Estrogen Plus Progestin Trial was cut short due to studies that offered evidence of the potential dangers for some women.
These findings caused many women to reject all types of hormone replacement therapies, especially among menopausal women, but according to the Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, CT, the fears causing the rejection of HRT has likely been misguided.
The study, published in the American Journal of Public Health, followed women that were not part of the 2002 trial. They ranged in age from 50 to 59 and had had hysterectomies. Researchers calculated that avoiding the estrogen only hormone therapy actually caused early deaths of almost 50,000 women in the years between 2002 and 2011.
According to Dr. Philip Sarrel, the head of the study, the avoidance of hormone replacement therapies of all kind occurred because of the way that they were explained and the way that people understood them. None of the women in the Yale study lived to the age of 70. They were between the ages of 50 and 59, and could have benefitted from estrogen only hormone replacement therapy, but because of the fears, they avoided it.
Researchers used mortality rate information to determine the number of women that had died from 2002-2011. The number was staggering; between 40,292 and 48,835 died prematurely during the years of the study.
According to the researchers, before 2002, 90 percent of the women that had hysterectomies would likely have gotten estrogen therapy for about five years. Today, less than one third of the women that have hysterectomies choose estrogen therapy. This is despite the fact that the Women’s Health Initiative maintained ongoing studies in 2004 and 2011 that found that women that had their uteruses removed and chose to use estrogen only treatment were able to reduce their risk of early death due to heart disease.
According to the co-authors of the study, researchers, media and health care providers are encouraged to ensure that women understand how beneficial estrogen only hormone treatment can be for women without a uteruses.
In a statement by the co-authors of the study, “Distortion of details can prove to be nothing less than lethal.” They also have said that it’s critical that the findings of the Women’s Health Initiative be presented in such a way that people understand that there are some essential differences between the two types of hormone treatments and that estrogen only therapy can, in fact, be beneficial to many without a uteruses.
However, Dr. Rowan Chlebowski, who is a Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute investigator has cautioned that the new study does not offer any new results from clinical trial and appears to be more of an analysis using strong assumptions.