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Estrogen Again

Rating

4 Star

Estrogen Again

Our Review Summary

This article does a good job of providing helpful and accurate context for these new findings from the estrogen-only portion of the Women’s Health Initiative. It clearly explains that the information applies only to women who have had a hysterectomy, particularly those with severe menopause symptoms. However, other options available for dealing with hot flashes and night sweats are not mentioned, nor is the cost of estrogen.

It also digs into the results, noting that the risk of breast cancer was slightly higher in estrogen users who were at higher risk to begin with, and that women taking estrogen had more abnormal mammograms and breast biopsies. Providing the actual numbers of women who developed cancer (and strokes or blood clots) and who needed further testing to check out abnormal mammograms would have been useful. Women trying to use this new information to help them decide how to manage their menopause symptoms would likely want to know. The risk of stroke with estrogen therapy could have been emphasized as a consideration.

The article is appropriately cautious about the ‘eventual’ development of tests that might better help target who can safely use estrogen and who cannot.

Criteria

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

The article does not mention costs of estrogen.

Does the story adequately quantify the benefits of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Not Satisfactory

The article does not include any information on the numbers of women who developed breast cancer, neither among the 2 main groups of women nor among those at high risk. Also no mention of the effectiveness of estrogen at relieving menopause symptoms.

Does the story adequately explain/quantify the harms of the intervention?

Satisfactory

The article notes that the estrogen-only part of the Women’s Health Initiative was stopped early because the women taking estrogen had an increased risk of stroke. (But it also could have mentioned that possible harm again as a factor that women should consider when deciding about therapy for their menopausal symptoms.) Blood clots, another possible side effect of estrogen therapy, are mentioned only briefly.

Does the story seem to grasp the quality of the evidence?

Satisfactory

The article provides background on earlier results from the study that helps put the new findings into context.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Satisfactory

No elements of disease mongering. Article clearly states that estrogen therapy is an option for treating severe menopause symptoms; it does not overstate the number of women entering menopause nor does it imply that they all will experience severe symptoms that warrant treatment.

Does the story use independent sources and identify conflicts of interest?

Satisfactory

Cites a lead researcher from the trial and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Missing the perspective of an independent expert without ties to the study.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

Other options for managing menopause symptoms are not noted.

Does the story establish the availability of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Satisfactory

It is clear from the article that estrogen is readily available.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Satisfactory

The article provides context that makes it clear that this is not a new therapy.

Does the story appear to rely solely or largely on a news release?

Satisfactory

It does not appear that the story relied solely or largely on a news release.

Total Score: 7 of 10 Satisfactory

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