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Avoiding estrogen therapy led to deaths of nearly 50,000 women, study says

Doctors believe that misconceptions about the risks of estrogen therapy have led to the premature deaths of nearly 50,000 women in the past 10 years, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Estrogen therapy has long been a controversial topic in the medical world. Before 2002, more than 90 percent of women who underwent a hysterectomy were treated with some type of hormone therapy, to help manage symptoms related to early menopause triggered by the procedure.

However, in 2002, a Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) study suggested that combination estrogen-progesterone treatments could potentially increase women’s risk for cancer and other health issues.

In the 10 years after that study was published, the numbers of women choosing to receive any type of hormone treatment post-hysterectomy dropped dramatically.  

Now, in a study published in the American Journal of Public Health, researchers are arguing that misconceptions about hormonal treatments also led women to reject estrogen-only treatments, which have numerous health benefits including reduced mortality and lower incidences of breast cancer and heart disease.

Using data to analyze a population of women ages 50 to 59 who had undergone hysterectomies, researchers estimated that up to 48,835 women died prematurely between 2002 and 2011  because they failed to use estrogen therapy treatments, the Los Angeles Times reported.

“What has happened is an avoidance of use of estrogen, not because of the [study] findings, but because of the way they were communicated and understood,” lead study author Dr. Philip Sarrel said, in a video interview released Thursday by Yale. “None of those women lived to be 70 years old. They were all women aged 50 to 59 who would have used estrogen but did not use it,” because of unfounded fears, he added.

Click for more from the Los Angeles Times.