The HRT furore: getting the message right

Anushka Patel, Robyn Norton and Stephen MacMahon
Med J Aust 2002; 177 (7): . || doi: 10.5694/j.1326-5377.2002.tb04834.x
Published online: 7 October 2002

Research papers should have a short section on how the results should be communicated to the public

By all accounts, many of the half million Australian women who regularly take combined oestrogen and progestin hormone replacement therapy (HRT) were alarmed by the news on Wednesday, 10 July 2002, reporting that a United States study had shown HRT to increase the risk of breast cancer by 26%, as well as causing more vascular disease. Subsequently, numerous media reports, based on press releases from organisations such as the US National Institutes of Health (NIH)1 and the Cancer Council of New South Wales,2 continued to highlight the apparently large increases in risks caused by combined HRT and called for restrictions on the use of this treatment. General practitioners and cancer help-lines were inundated by enquiries from frightened women and reports of mass withdrawals from therapy soon followed.

  • Institute for International Health, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW.


Competing interests:

None identified.

  • 1. NIH News Release. NHLBI stops trial of estrogen plus progestin due to increased breast cancer risk, lack of overall benefit. <>
  • 2. Cancer Council of New South Wales. Call to restrict combined hormone replacement therapy in wake of breast cancer link. <> (link updated October 2005)
  • 3. Writing Group for the Women's Health Initiative Investigators. Risks and benefits of estrogen plus progestin in healthy postmenopausal women: principal results from the Women's Health Initiative randomized controlled trial. JAMA 2002; 288: 321-333.
  • 4. JAMA Science News Update. Health risks outweigh benefits for combined estrogen plus progestin — clinical trial stopped early in major study. <> (no longer available)
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  • 8. Bucher HC, Weinbacher M, Gyr K. Influence of method of reporting study results on decision of physicians to prescribe drugs to lower cholesterol concentration. BMJ 1994; 309: 761-764.
  • 9. Malenka DJ, Baron JA, Johansen S, et al. The framing effect of relative and absolute risk. J Gen Intern Med 1993; 8: 543-548.
  • 10. Noble T. Women abandon suspect hormone therapy. The Age 19 August 2002: 1.


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