Where are we 10 years after the Women's Health Initiative?

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2013 May;98(5):1771-80. doi: 10.1210/jc.2012-4070. Epub 2013 Mar 14.


The media attention surrounding the publication of the initial results of WHI in 2002 led to fear and confusion regarding the use of hormonal therapy (HT) after menopause. This led to a dramatic reduction in prescriptions for HT in the United States and around the world. Although in 2002 it was stated that the results pertained to all women receiving HT, subsequent studies from the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) and others clearly showed that younger women and those close to menopause had a very beneficial risk-to-benefit ratio. Indeed, the results showed similar protective effects for coronary disease and a reduction in mortality that had been shown in earlier observational studies, which had also focused on younger symptomatic women. In younger women, the increased number of cases of venous thrombosis and ischemic stroke was low, rendering them "rare" events using World Health Organization nomenclature. Breast cancer rates were also low and were found to be decreased with estrogen alone. In women receiving estrogen and progestogen for the first time in the WHI, breast cancer rates did not increase significantly for 7 years. Other data suggest that other regimens and the use of other progestogens may also be safer. It has been argued that in the 10 years since WHI, many women have been denied HT, including those with severe symptoms, and that this has significantly disadvantaged a generation of women. Some reports have also suggested an increased rate of osteoporotic fractures since the WHI. Therefore, the question is posed as to whether we have now come full circle in our understanding of the use of HT in younger women. Although it is appropriate to treat women with symptoms at the onset of menopause, because there is no proven therapy for primary prevention, in some women the use of HT for this role may at least be entertained.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging*
  • Breast Neoplasms / chemically induced
  • Breast Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Breast Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Cognition Disorders / epidemiology
  • Cognition Disorders / prevention & control
  • Coronary Disease / chemically induced
  • Coronary Disease / epidemiology
  • Coronary Disease / mortality
  • Coronary Disease / prevention & control
  • Dementia / epidemiology
  • Dementia / prevention & control
  • Female
  • Hormone Replacement Therapy / adverse effects
  • Hormone Replacement Therapy / trends
  • Humans
  • Osteoporotic Fractures / epidemiology
  • Osteoporotic Fractures / prevention & control
  • Risk
  • Women's Health Services* / trends
  • Women's Health*
  • World Health Organization