Improving women’s health and saving lives with scientific evidence

2011 Annual Report

Improving women’s health and saving lives with scientific evidence

Dr. Andrea LaCroix

Dr. Andrea LaCroix

For 20 years, research from the Hutchinson Center-based Women’s Health Initiative has saved thousands of lives by debunking conventional wisdom and allowing millions of women and their doctors to make key health decisions based on scientific evidence.

The WHI’s biggest landmark was the finding that combined hormone replacement therapy (estrogen plus progestin) to manage the symptoms of menopause increases a woman’s risk of breast cancer and heart disease. Use of the once-widespread therapy immediately dropped, followed by a consequent decline in breast cancer in the U.S.

Hutchinson Center researchers with the WHI continue to make important discoveries, including a new study this year by Dr. Andrea LaCroix showing certain women who used only estrogen hormone therapy had markedly reduced risk for breast cancer and heart attacks.

Her estrogen-only hormone study followed nearly 11,000 women for an average of 11 years, the most extensive look at the topic. Women in their 50s taking estrogen had a lower risk of heart attack, but the risk was increased for those in their 70s. The risk of breast cancer was reduced for all ages. LaCroix and colleagues also found that strokes and other health problems linked with estrogen pills appeared to fade after the medication was stopped.

From this and numerous other findings, the Women’s Health Initiative continues to contribute a greater understanding of the role of hormones, diet and calcium on midlife female health.