Background: Results of 2 trials of postmenopausal hormone therapy (HT) challenged established practice patterns; 1 was not associated with changes in HT use, whereas the other was associated with substantial decline. Differential coverage by lay newspapers may have contributed to the differential impact.
Objective: To examine newspaper coverage of HT before and after the publication of the Heart and Estrogen Replacement Study (HERS) in August 1998, and the main findings of the estrogen plus progestin therapy arm of the Women's Health Initiative (EPT-WHI) in July 2002.
Design: Longitudinal review of newspaper articles, 1998 to 2003 (n=663).
Setting: Twenty local and 6 regional/national newspapers.
Measurements: Number and content of articles about HT.
Results: The average number of articles about HT published during the month of the publication of the EPT-WHI was at least 8-fold greater than the number of articles published on the topic during any prior period. While the majority of articles in all periods presented information about the potential benefits of HT, information about harms became more common than information about benefits during the 2 months before the publication of the EPT-WHI, when the trial participants were notified of the early termination of the study. The presentation of specific health harms was more common after the publication of the EPT-WHI than after the publication of HERS. Few articles in any period used visual aids.
Conclusions: The publication of the EPT-WHI was associated with a change in both the volume and content of newspaper coverage about HT.