Since the beginning the study of women’s health issues at mid-life has been controversial and surprising. The study into hormone therapy for women began in 1898 when doctors in Germany fed cow ovaries to a woman that was suffering from extreme hot flashes after having her own ovaries removed. This spark ignited a fire of controversy and experimentation that leads right up to the present day. In the 1960s, drug companies wanted us to believe that hormone therapy would keep a woman feminine forever, our own little fountain of youth of sorts. Still others warned against making the natural processes of menopause seem like a disease by medicating it.
The issue should have been settled after the first woman to run the National Institutes of Health made the decision to launch a major research effort that would focus on women’s health issues, especially at mid-life. The study was set to examine the benefits and risks of hormone therapy, vitamin D and calcium supplements, and diets low in fat. More than 160,000 women were recruited, and over 20,000 of these were in it for the hormone research. Thus began a series of results that continues to jerk surprising twists into common beliefs involving these subjects.
The study was expected to substantiate the long held belief that hormones could help prevent chronic illnesses in women such as cancer, heart disease and breast implants. This has not been the case however. The results have surprised time and time again, leaving many women worldwide feeling lied to and betrayed. In spite of the negative results on women’s trust in science and medicine, the research has proven to be very valuable. The first twist came when one of the larger hormone studies was halted because it seemed to show an increase in the risk for breast cancer and heart disease in women using a combination of progestin and estrogen, shocking the world when it came to women’s health issues
Though later studies suggested the level of risk may be related to age, tons of women began to abandon this type of treatment. Other studies also showed that the use of estrogen could increase the risk of stroke, and that the cancers that came associated with the use of a combination of progestin and estrogen were among the most deadly. Recently there has been yet another surprise when it comes to women’s health issues, this one positive. Studies have shown a notable decrease in the risk for breast cancer and heart attacks in those women who used only estrogen.
The surprising results that have come from the studies into women’s health issues have had varying effects on society. While many are confused, and some have lost faith in the research due to seemingly contradictory results, it might not be such a bad thing. If women are less likely to simply trust a pill to keep them from getting ill, they are more likely to pursue total body health.