Two-Thirds of American Women Age 40 and Over Don’t Know Much About Sex Hormones

October 13, 2011

-University of Cincinnati Launches Program to Help Close the Knowledge Gap-

San Francisco, CA – (October 6, 1998) – In just over a year, 50 million American women will have reached menopause.1 A surprising new survey finds the majority of them are not prepared for this major life milestone. Sixty-four percent could not name the hormones that play a key role in the onset of menopause, according to a Yankelovich survey conducted for the University of Cincinnati and presented today at the 54th American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) Annual Meeting in San Francisco.

 

Forty-four percent said they did not know much about estrogen, and a remarkable 65% said the same about progesterone, which is the second most important sex hormone for women. These statistics suggest a troubling knowledge gap among the millions of women expected to reach menopause by the year 2000 and who are, or will soon be, making decisions about hormone replacement therapy (HRT).

"The vast majority of women entering menopause could benefit from taking HRT, yet fewer than 25% of these women are actually doing so. I think much of this can be attributed to the lack of awareness about the health role that hormones play for women, especially as they reach menopause," says Dr. Robert W. Rebar, professor and chairman of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.

 

According to the survey, women age 40 and over are divided in their feelings about trying hormone replacement therapy. Regardless of whether or not they have experience with the therapy, 42% say they would use HRT if entering menopause today, while 41% said they would not.

Many women who might benefit from HRT are not convinced they need it. Of the women who said they would not take HRT if they became menopausal today, 18% said they didn’t think it was necessary; another 32% wouldn’t take it, but aren’t sure why. Twenty percent of the women who would not take HRT cited side effects as deterrents. Eleven percent cited fear of the risks associated with HRT, even though the benefits of HRT are well-established.

 

 

Why Women – and Their Physicians – Should Find Knowledge Gap Disturbing

As a woman enters menopause, levels of naturally-produced estrogen and progesterone drop sharply, often causing hot flashes, mood swings, vaginal dryness, and irritability. HRT can be prescribed to alleviate these symptoms. It can also provide protection from cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis, both of which can result from diminished hormone levels

. In addition, estrogen has been studied for prevention against Alzheimer’s disease and its anti-aging benefits. A study published last year in the Journal of the American Medical Association estimated that for more than 99% of healthy perimenopausal women, the benefits of HRT outweigh the risks. 2

 

 

Information Overload, But Little "Knowledge"

Despite lots of media coverage about menopause in the past decade, women are not as knowledgeable about key research findings and new treatment options as might be expected. Nearly half (46%) of the women said they do not know or are not sure about which hormones are commonly prescribed in HRT.

"This is surprising, considering that the Postmenopausal Estrogen/Progestin Intervention Trial (PEPI) was among the most widely publicized research studies of the last decade," said Dr. Rebar. "PEPI showed, among other things, that combination therapy of estrogen and progestogen (HRT) demonstrates preventive effects on osteoporosis and cardiovascular diseases."

Surprisingly, women age 40 and over do not attribute this lack of knowledge to their doctors. Among those who have visited a doctor for menopause-related issues, a majority (79%) feel their doctors explained hormone replacement very well.

 

Planting the Seeds of HRT Understanding

To address the knowledge gap, the University of Cincinnati Medical Center (UCMC) is launching a novel educational series for patients and their doctors called Planting the Seeds of HRT Understanding. The series will offer women an interactive educational forum to learn about and discuss menopausal treatment options, risk factors, and preventable diseases (e.g., osteoporosis). The program will give doctors new information for counseling and treating patients who may be unsure or uninformed about medical therapies for menopause. In 1998, UCMC will roll out the program in San Francisco, Washington, DC, and Atlanta.

Studies show that women who have a bone density test are more likely to understand the issues related to HRT and osteoporosis. Planting the Seeds of HRT Understanding will offer free bone density tests provided by Hologic, a leading developer, manufacturer, and marketer of proprietary X-ray and ultrasound bone assessment systems. Hologic’s Sahara Clinical Bone Sonometer is the first ultrasound bone densitometer approved to assist in the diagnosis of osteoporosis. Sahara is an innovative ultrasound device that estimates bone density of the heel, providing convenient and comfortable screening.

 

Survey Methodology

Between March 24 and April 6, 1998, Yankelovich Partners interviewed a nationally representative sample of more than 1,000 women age 40 or older. The survey was conducted on behalf of the University of Cincinnati and funded by an unrestricted educational grant from Solvay Pharmaceuticals. Interviews were conducted using a Random Digital Dial (RDD) technique to ensure that respondents with both listed and unlisted phone numbers were reached. The margin of error based on the total number of respondents is +/- 3.1%.

The University of Cincinnati Medical Center is a nationally recognized academic health sciences center based in Cincinnati, Ohio and home to one of the first colleges of medicine in the country. The Medical Center is ranked within the top 25% of research-based academic medical centers in the United States. Its mission is to enhance and improve the quality of health for people everywhere by discovering, teaching, and applying knowledge related to the health sciences.

Founded in 1986, Hologic, Inc. is a leading developer, manufacturer and marketer of proprietary x-ray and ultrasound systems. With more than 5,000 installations worldwide, Hologic's Quantitative Digital Radiography (QDR®) x-ray densitometers and SAHARA ultrasound bone densitometers are used for the precise measurement of bone density to assist in the diagnosis and monitoring of metabolic bone diseases. Hologic maintains an active research and development program dedicated to bringing a continuing series of new products to market and to maintaining Hologic's position of leadership in its field. Hologic shares are traded on the NASDAQ exchange under the symbol HOLX.

References:

1 US Census, Current Population Reports: Population Projections of the US by Age, Sex, Race and Hispanic Origin: 1995 to 2050; and Managing Your Menopausal Patient: Solutions for Women at Risk. SCIENS Worldwide Medical Education, New York, 1997.

2 Col, Nananda F et al., Patient-Specific Decisions About Hormone Replacement Therapy in Postmenopausal Women. Journal of the American Medical Association, April 9, 1997, vol. 277, no. 14, p. 1145.