Background: The news media facilitated the rapid dissemination of the findings from the estrogen plus progestin therapy arm of the Women's Health Initiative (EPT-WHI).
Objective: To examine the relationship between the potential exposure to newspaper coverage and subsequent hormone therapy (HT) use. DESIGN/POPULATION: Population-based cohort of women receiving mammography at 7 sites (327,144 postmenopausal women).
Measurements: The outcome was the monthly prevalence of self-reported HT use. Circulation data for local, regional, and national newspapers was used to create zip-code level measures of the estimated average household exposure to newspaper coverage that reported the harmful effects of HT in July 2002.
Results: Women had an average potential household exposure of 1.4 articles. There was substantial variation in the level of average household exposure to newspaper coverage; women from rural sites received less than women from urban sites. Use of HT declined for all average potential exposure groups after the publication of the EPT-WHI. HT prevalence among women who lived in areas where there was an average household exposure of at least 3 articles declined significantly more (45 to 27%) compared to women who lived in areas with <1 article (43 to 31%) during each of the subsequent 5 months (relative risks 0.86-0.92; p < .006 for all).
Conclusions: Greater average household exposure to newspaper coverage about the harms associated with HT was associated with a large population-based decline in HT use. Further studies should examine whether media coverage directly influences the health behavior of individual women.