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1.  Injectable and Oral Contraceptive Use and Cancers of the Breast, Cervix, Ovary, and Endometrium in Black South African Women: Case–Control Study 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(3):e1001182.
A case-control study conducted in South Africa provides new estimates of the risk of specific cancers of the female reproductive system associated with use of injectable and oral contraceptives.
Oral contraceptives are known to influence the risk of cancers of the female reproductive system. Evidence regarding the relationship between injectable contraceptives and these cancers is limited, especially in black South Africans, among whom injectable contraceptives are used more commonly than oral contraceptives.
Methods and Findings
We analysed data from a South African hospital-based case–control study of black females aged 18–79 y, comparing self-reported contraceptive use in patients with breast (n = 1,664), cervical (n = 2,182), ovarian (n = 182), and endometrial (n = 182) cancer, with self-reported contraceptive use in 1,492 control patients diagnosed with cancers with no known relationship to hormonal contraceptive use. We adjusted for potential confounding factors, including age, calendar year of diagnosis, education, smoking, alcohol, parity/age at first birth, and number of sexual partners. Among controls, 26% had used injectable and 20% had used oral contraceptives. For current and more recent users versus never users of oral or injectable contraceptives, the odds ratios (ORs) for breast cancer were significantly increased in users of oral and/or injectable contraceptives (OR 1.66, 95% CI 1.28–2.16, p<0.001) and separately among those exclusively using oral (1.57, 1.03–2.40, p = 0.04) and exclusively using injectable (OR 1.83, 1.31–2.55, p<0.001) contraceptives; corresponding ORs for cervical cancer were 1.38 (1.08–1.77, p = 0.01), 1.01 (0.66–1.56, p = 0.96), and 1.58 (1.16–2.15, p = 0.004). There was no significant increase in breast or cervical cancer risk among women ceasing hormonal contraceptive use ≥10 y previously (p = 0.3 and p = 0.9, respectively). For durations of use ≥5 y versus never use, the ORs of ovarian cancer were 0.60 (0.36–0.99, p = 0.04) for oral and/or injectable contraceptive use and 0.07 (0.01–0.49, p = 0.008) for injectable use exclusively; corresponding ORs for endometrial cancer were 0.44 (0.22–0.86, p = 0.02) and 0.36 (0.11–1.26, p = 0.1).
In this study, use of oral and of injectable hormonal contraceptives was associated with a transiently increased risk of breast and cervical cancer and, for long durations of use, with a reduced risk of ovarian and endometrial cancer. The observed effects of injectable and of oral contraceptives on cancer risk in this study did not appear to differ substantially.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Hormonal contraceptives are among the most commonly used medications. Globally, more than 210 million women currently use either hormonal contraceptive pills or injectable contraceptives. Contraceptive pills usually contain manmade versions of the female sex hormones estrogen and progesterone (the combined oral contraceptive, or “pill”); most injectable hormonal contraceptives contain only manmade progesterone preparations. Hormonal contraceptives, which prevent pregnancy by disrupting the cyclical changes in estrogen and progesterone levels that prepare the body for pregnancy, have revolutionized birth control since they first became available in the early 1960s. However, it is now known that taking the pill also influences women's risk of developing cancers of the female reproductive system. Current and recent users have an increased risk of developing breast and cervical cancer (the cervix is the structure that connects the womb to the vagina) compared to never users, although this increased risk quickly disappears when women stop taking the pill. By contrast, women who have used the pill have a reduced risk of developing ovarian cancer and cancer of the womb (endometrial cancer) compared to never users that increases with the duration of pill use and persists for many years after use ceases. These effects on reproductive system cancers are thought to occur because these cancers depend on naturally occurring sex hormones for their development and growth.
Why Was This Study Done?
Although the evidence that the pill influences the risk of developing cancers of the female reproductive system is extensive, much less is known about how injectable hormonal contraceptives affect cancer risk. In this hospital-based case–control study (a study that compares the characteristics of people with and without a specific condition), the researchers investigate the relationship between the use of oral and injectable hormonal contraceptives and cancers of the breast, cervix, ovary, and endometrium among black South African women. Injectable contraceptives have been used for longer in South Africa than elsewhere and are used more commonly than oral contraceptives among black South African women.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
As part of the Johannesburg Cancer Case Control Study, which recruits black patients attending Johannesburg public referral hospitals for cancer treatment, the researchers compared hormonal contraceptive use in women with breast, cervical, ovarian, or endometrial cancer with contraceptive use in women diagnosed with other cancers such as lung, colon, and rectal cancers, which are not known to be influenced by hormonal contraceptives. Among the controls, a quarter had used injectable contraceptives and a fifth had used oral contraceptives. After adjusting for other factors that might influence cancer risk such as age, smoking, and number of sexual partners, the odds ratio (OR) of breast cancer among current and recent users of oral and/or injectable contraceptives compared to never users was 1.66. That is, the risk of developing breast cancer among current and recent users of hormonal contraceptives was 1.66 times that among never users. For women using oral contraceptives exclusively or injectable contraceptives exclusively, the ORs of breast cancer were 1.57 and 1.83, respectively. There were also increases in cervical cancer risk among current and recent users of hormonal contraceptives compared to never users, but no significant increase in breast or cervical cancer risk among women who had ceased hormonal contraceptive use more than ten years previously. Finally, the use of hormonal contraceptives for more than five years reduced the risk of both ovarian and endometrial cancer.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that, among black women in South Africa, the use of oral or injectable hormonal contraceptives is associated with a transiently increased risk of breast and cervical cancer, and that extended use of these contraceptives is associated with a reduced risk of ovarian and endometrial cancer. Moreover, they suggest that the effects of oral versus injectable contraceptives on cancer risk do not differ substantially, although for endometrial and ovarian cancer the small number of cases exposed to injectable contraceptives limits the accuracy of the risk estimates. Other limitations of this study include the possibility that the findings may be affected by uncontrolled confounding. That is, women who used hormonal contraceptives may have shared other unidentified characteristics that affected their cancer risk. Nevertheless, these findings provide new information about the effects of oral and injectable hormonal contraceptives on cancer risk that should help women make informed decisions about their choice of contraceptive method.
Additional Information
Please access these web sites via the online version of this summary at
The US National Cancer Institute provides information on breast cancer (including personal stories from breast cancer survivors), cervical cancer, ovarian cancer, and endometrial cancer for patients and health professionals, and a fact sheet on oral contraceptives and cancer risk (in English and Spanish)
Cancer Research UK also provides information on breast cancer, cervical cancer, ovarian cancer, and endometrial cancer and information about the birth control pill and cancer risk
Eyes on the Prize, an online support group for women who have had cancers of the female reproductive system, has personal stories; further personal stories about breast, cervical, and ovarian cancer are provided by the charity Healthtalkonline
PMCID: PMC3295825  PMID: 22412354
2.  Update on Research and Treatment of Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder 
Harvard review of psychiatry  2009;17(2):120-137.
Many women in their reproductive years experience some mood, behavioral. or physical symptoms in the week prior to menses. Variability exists in the level of symptom burden in that some women experience mild symptoms, whereas a small minority experience severe and debilitating symptoms. For an estimated 5%–8% of premenopausal women, work or social functioning are affected by severe premenstrual syndrome. Many women in this group meet diagnostic criteria for premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). Among women who suffer from PMDD, mood and behavioral symptoms such as irritability, depressed mood, tension, and labile mood dominate. Somatic complaints, including breast tenderness and bloating, also can prove disruptive to women's overall functioning and quality of life. Recent evidence suggests that individual sensitivity to cyclical variations in levels of gonadal hormones may predispose certain women to experience these mood, behavioral, and somatic symptoms. Treatments include: antidepressants of the serotonin reuptake inhibitor class, taken intermittently or throughout the menstrual cycle; medications that suppress ovarian cyclicity; and newer oral contraceptives with novel progestins. (Harv Rev Psychiatry 2009;17:120–137.)
PMCID: PMC3098121  PMID: 19373620
mood disorders; premenstrual dysphoric disorder; premenstrual syndrome
3.  Progestin-only contraceptives: effects on weight 
The Cochrane database of systematic reviews  2011;10.1002/14651858.CD008815.pub2.
Progestin-only contraceptives (POCs) are appropriate for many women who cannot or should not take estrogen. Many POCs are long-acting, cost-effective methods of preventing pregnancy. However, concern about weight gain can deter the initiation of contraceptives and cause early discontinuation among users.
The primary objective was to evaluate the association between progestin-only contraceptive use and changes in body weight.
Search methods
Through May 2013, we searched MEDLINE, CENTRAL, POPLINE, LILACS,, and ICTRP. The 2010 search also included EMBASE. For the initial review, we contacted investigators to identify other trials.
Selection criteria
All comparative studies were eligible that examined a POC versus another contraceptive method or no contraceptive. The primary outcome was mean change in body weight or mean change in body composition. We also considered the dichotomous outcome of loss or gain of a specified amount of weight.
Data collection and analysis
Two authors extracted the data. We computed the mean difference (MD) with 95% confidence interval (CI) for continuous variables. For dichotomous outcomes, the Mantel-Haenszel odds ratio (OR) with 95% CI was calculated.
Main results
We found 16 studies; one examined progestin-only pills, one studied the levonorgestrel-releasing intrauterine system (LNG-IUS), four examined an implant, and 10 focused on depot medroxyprogesterone acetate (DMPA). Outcomes examined were changes in body weight only (14 studies), changes in both body weight and body composition (1 study), and changes in body composition only (1 study). We did not conduct meta-analysis due to the various contraceptive methods and weight change measures.
Comparison groups did not differ significantly for weight change in 12 studies. However, three studies showed weight change differences for POC users compared to women not using a hormonal method. In one study, weight gain (kg) was greater for the DMPA group than the group using a non-hormonal IUD in years one through three [(MD 2.28; 95% CI 1.79 to 2.77), (MD 2.71, 95% CI 2.12 to 3.30), and (MD 3.17; 95% CI 2.51 to 3.83), respectively]. The differences were notable within the normal weight and overweight subgroups. Two implant studies also showed differences in weight change. The implant group (six-capsule) had greater weight gain (kg) compared to the group using a non-hormonal IUD in both studies [(MD 0.47 (95% CI 0.29 to 0.65); (MD 1.10; 95% CI 0.36 to 1.84)]. In one of those studies, the implant group also had greater weight gain than a group using a barrier method or no contraceptive (MD 0.74; 95% CI 0.52 to 0.96).
The two studies that assessed body composition change showed differences between POC users and women not using a hormonal method. Adolescents using DMPA had a greater increase in body fat (%) compared to a group not using a hormonal method (MD 11.00; 95% CI 2.64 to 19.36). The DMPA group also had a greater decrease in lean body mass (%) (MD −4.00; 95% CI −6.93 to −1.07). The other study reported differences between an LNG-IUS group and a non-hormonal IUD group in percent change in body fat mass (2.5% versus −1.3%, respectively; reported P value = 0.029) and percent change in lean body mass (−1.4% versus 1.0%, respectively; reported P value = 0.027).
Authors’ conclusions
The overall quality of evidence was moderate to low, given that the studies were evenly divided across the evidence quality groups (high, moderate, low, or very low quality). We found limited evidence of weight gain when using POCs. Mean gain was less than 2 kg for most studies up to 12 months. Weight change for the POC group generally did not differ significantly from that of the comparison group using another contraceptive. Two studies that assessed body composition showed that POC users had greater increases in body fat and decreases in lean body mass compared to users of non-hormonal methods. Appropriate counseling about typical weight gain may help reduce discontinuation of contraceptives due to perceptions of weight gain.
PMCID: PMC3855691  PMID: 21491411
Ovarian cancer is the leading cause of reproductive cancer death in U.S. women. This high mortality rate is due to the lack of early detection methods and ineffectiveness of therapy for advanced disease. Until more effective screening methods and therapies are developed, chemoprevention strategies are warranted. The hen has a high spontaneous prevalence of ovarian cancer and has been used as a model for studying ovarian cancer chemoprevention. In this study, we used the hen to determine the effect of progestin alone, estrogen alone, or progestin and estrogen in combination (as found in oral contraceptives) on ovarian cancer prevalence. We found that treatment with progestin alone and in combination with estrogen decreased the prevalence of ovarian cancer. A significant risk reduction of 91% was observed in the group treated with progestin alone (risk ratio 0.0909: 95% confidence interval 0.0117-0.704) and an 81% reduction was observed in the group treated with progestin plus estrogen (risk ratio 0.1916: 95% confidence interval 0.043-0.864). Egg production was also significantly reduced in these treatment groups compared to control. We found no effect of progestin, either alone or in combination with estrogen, on apoptosis or proliferation in the ovary, indicating that this is not the likely mechanism responsible for the protective effect of progestin in the hen. Our results support the use of oral contraceptives to prevent ovarian cancer and suggest that ovulation is related to the risk of ovarian cancer in hens and that other factors, such as hormones, more than likely modify this risk.
PMCID: PMC3273612  PMID: 22135044
ovarian cancer; animal models of cancer; hen; oral contraceptives; ovulation
5.  Oral contraceptives modify DNA methylation and monocyte-derived macrophage function 
Fertile women may be encouraged to use contraception during clinical trials to avoid potential drug effects on fetuses. However, hormonal contraception interferes with pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics and modifies internal milieus. Macrophages depend on the milieu to which they are exposed. Therefore, we assessed whether macrophage function would be affected by the use of combined oral contraceptives (OCs) and if this influence depended on the androgenic or non-androgenic properties of progestin.
Healthy adult women were enrolled and stratified into two groups: women who did not use OCs (Fs) and women treated with OCs (FOCs). FOCs were further stratified as a function of androgenic (FOCA+) and non-androgenic (FOCA-) properties of progestins. Routine hematological, biochemical, inflammatory and endothelial dysfunction parameters were measured. Monocyte-derived macrophages (MDMs) were evaluated for the expression and activity of estrogen receptors and androgen receptors, and release of tumor necrosis factor α (TNFα) was measured from unstimulated and lipopolysaccharide-stimulated cells.
As is already known, the use of OCs changed numerous parameters: the number of lymphocytes, iron levels, total iron-binding capacity of transferrin, triglycerides, high-density lipoprotein, total cholesterol, and C-reactive protein increased, while prothrombin time and alkaline phosphatase decreased. Hormonal levels also varied: cortisol was higher in FOCs, while luteinizing hormone, follicle-stimulating hormone, and testosterone were lower in FOCs. Asymmetric dimethylarginine, an index of endothelial function, was lower in FOC than in Fs, as were cysteine and bilirubin. The androgenic properties of progestins affected the activity of OCs: in particular, white blood cell count, hemoglobin, high-density lipoprotein and calcium were higher in FOCA- than in FOCA+, whereas percentage oxygen saturation and γ-glutamyl transpeptidase were lower in FOCA- than in FOCA+. Importantly, FOCs had a lower global DNA methylation, indicating that OC may have epigenetic effects on gene expression. OC did not modify the expression of androgen receptor but increased estrogen receptor α expression, more considerably in FOCA+, and decreased estrogen receptor β, more considerably in FOCA-. Importantly, the activation state of estrogen receptor β in FOCs was decreased, while estrogen receptor α was not active in either Fs or FOCs. Unstimulated MDMs obtained from FOCs showed higher release of TNFα in comparison with Fs. After lipopolysaccharide stimulation, the release of TNFα was significantly higher in Fs than in FOCs.
OC use induced many changes in hematological and plasmatic markers, modifying hormonal levels, endothelial function, inflammation index and some redox state parameters, producing a perturbation of the internal milieu that impacted macrophagic function. In fact, different levels of estrogen receptor expression and release of TNFα were observed in macrophages derived from OC users. Some of the above activities were linked to the androgenic properties of progestin. Even though it is not known whether these effects are reversible, the results indicate that to avoid potential skewing of results only a single type of OC should be used during a single clinical trial.
PMCID: PMC3298494  PMID: 22284681
androgenic and non-androgenic progestin; combined oral contraceptive; estrogen receptors; global DNA methylation; monocyte-derived macrophages; TNFα
6.  Is Progestin an Independent Risk Factor for Incident Venous Thromboembolism? A Population-Based Case-Control Study 
Thrombosis research  2010;126(5):373-378.
Because the risk of venous thromboembolism (VTE) associated with progestin is uncertain, we tested oral contraceptives, estrogen and progestin as independent VTE risk factors.
Materials and Methods
Using longitudinal, population-based Rochester Epidemiology Project resources, we identified all Olmsted County, MN women with objectively-diagnosed incident VTE over the 13-year period, 1988–2000 (n=726) and one to two Olmsted County women per case matched on age, event year and duration of prior medical history (n=830), and reviewed their complete medical history in the community for previously-identified VTE risk factors (i.e., hospitalization with or without surgery, nursing home confinement, trauma/fracture, leg paresis, active cancer, varicose veins and pregnancy/postpartum), and oral contraceptive, oral estrogen, and oral or injectable progestin exposure. Using conditional logistic regression we tested these hormone exposures as VTE risk factors, both unadjusted and after adjusting for previously-identified VTE risk factors.
In unadjusted models, oral contraceptives, progestin alone, and estrogen plus progestin were significantly associated with VTE. Individually adjusting for body mass index (BMI) and previously-identified VTE risk factors, these effects remained essentially unchanged except that progestin alone was not associated with VTE after adjusting for active cancer. Considering only case-control pairs without active cancer, progestin alone was positively but non-significantly associated with VTE (OR=2.49; p=0.16). Adjusting for BMI and previously-identified VTE risk factors including active cancer, oral contraceptives, estrogen alone, and progestin with or without estrogen were significantly associated with VTE.
Oral contraceptives, estrogen alone, estrogen plus progestin, and progestin with or without estrogen are independent VTE risk factors.
PMCID: PMC2975753  PMID: 20833412
venous thromboembolism; deep vein thrombosis; pulmonary embolism; progestin; epidemiology
7.  Association of Hormonal Contraceptive Use With Reduced Levels of Depressive Symptoms: A National Study of Sexually Active Women in the United States 
American Journal of Epidemiology  2013;178(9):1378-1388.
An estimated 80% of sexually active young women in the United States use hormonal contraceptives during their reproductive years. Associations between hormonal contraceptive use and mood disturbances remain understudied, despite the hypothesis that estrogen and progesterone play a role in mood problems. In this study, we used data from 6,654 sexually active nonpregnant women across 4 waves of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (1994–2008), focusing on women aged 25–34 years. Women were asked about hormonal contraceptive use in the context of a current sexual partnership; thus, contraceptive users were compared with other sexually active women who were using either nonhormonal contraception or no contraception. Depressive symptoms were assessed with the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale. At ages 25–34 years, hormonal contraceptive users had lower mean levels of concurrent depressive symptoms (β = −1.04, 95% confidence interval: −1.73, −0.35) and were less likely to report a past-year suicide attempt (odds ratio = 0.37, 95% confidence interval: 0.14, 0.95) than women using low-efficacy contraception or no contraception, in models adjusted for propensity scores for hormonal contraceptive use. Longitudinal analyses indicated that associations between hormonal contraception and depressive symptoms were stable. Hormonal contraception may reduce levels of depressive symptoms among young women. Systematic investigation of exogenous hormones as a potential preventive factor in psychiatric epidemiology is warranted.
PMCID: PMC3888252  PMID: 24043440
adolescent; depression; gender; hormonal contraception; oral contraceptives; suicide
8.  Postmenopausal Estrogen Therapy and Depressive Symptoms in Older Women 
Evidence regarding the effect of postmenopausal estrogen therapy on mood is limited.
To determine whether postmenopausal estrogen therapy is associated with fewer depressive symptoms in elderly women, we conducted a cross-sectional study of 6,602 white women ages 71 years or older who were recruited from population-based listings in Baltimore, Md; Minneapolis, Minn; Portland, Ore; and the Monongahela Valley, Pa. Use of estrogen and progestin was determined by interview. Participants completed the Geriatric Depression Scale short form (GDS) and were considered depressed if they reported 6 or more of 15 possible symptoms of depression.
A total of 6.3% (72/1,150) of current estrogen users, 7.2% (142/1,964) of past estrogen users, and 9.0% (313/3,488) of never users reported 6 or more symptoms of depression (P = .004). Current estrogen users had a decreased risk of reporting 6 or more depressive symptoms, compared with not current (past or never) users of estrogen (odds ratio [OR], 0.7; 95% CI, 0.5 to 0.9; P = .01], adjusted for living alone, bilateral oophorectomy, current smoking, physical activity, social network, self-perceived health, cognitive function, functional status, and antidepressant use. However, excluding women who use estrogen or progestin alone, we were unable to find an association between current use of combined estrogen plus progestin therapy and depressive symptoms (adjusted OR, 0.8; 95% CI, 0.5 to 1.4; P = .5).
This cross-sectional study found that current use of unopposed estrogen was associated with a decreased risk of depressive symptoms in older women. Additional studies are needed to understand the effect of combined estrogen and progestin therapy on the prevalence of depressive symptoms in older women.
PMCID: PMC1495584  PMID: 10940144
depression; estrogen replacement therapy; aged; follow-up studies
9.  Promotional Tone in Reviews of Menopausal Hormone Therapy After the Women's Health Initiative: An Analysis of Published Articles 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(3):e1000425.
Adriane Fugh-Berman and colleagues analyzed a selection of published opinion pieces on hormone therapy and show that there may be a connection between receiving industry funding for speaking, consulting, or research and the tone of such opinion pieces.
Even after the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) found that the risks of menopausal hormone therapy (hormone therapy) outweighed benefit for asymptomatic women, about half of gynecologists in the United States continued to believe that hormones benefited women's health. The pharmaceutical industry has supported publication of articles in medical journals for marketing purposes. It is unknown whether author relationships with industry affect promotional tone in articles on hormone therapy. The goal of this study was to determine whether promotional tone could be identified in narrative review articles regarding menopausal hormone therapy and whether articles identified as promotional were more likely to have been authored by those with conflicts of interest with manufacturers of menopausal hormone therapy.
Methods and Findings
We analyzed tone in opinion pieces on hormone therapy published in the four years after the estrogen-progestin arm of the WHI was stopped. First, we identified the ten authors with four or more MEDLINE-indexed reviews, editorials, comments, or letters on hormone replacement therapy or menopausal hormone therapy published between July 2002 and June 2006. Next, we conducted an additional search using the names of these authors to identify other relevant articles. Finally, after author names and affiliations were removed, 50 articles were evaluated by three readers for scientific accuracy and for tone. Scientific accuracy was assessed based on whether or not the findings of the WHI were accurately reported using two criteria: (1) Acknowledgment or lack of denial of the risk of breast cancer diagnosis associated with hormone therapy, and (2) acknowledgment that hormone therapy did not benefit cardiovascular disease endpoints. Determination of promotional tone was based on the assessment by each reader of whether the article appeared to promote hormone therapy. Analysis of inter-rater consistency found moderate agreement for scientific accuracy (κ = 0.57) and substantial agreement for promotional tone (κ = 0.65). After discussion, readers found 86% of the articles to be scientifically accurate and 64% to be promotional in tone. Themes that were common in articles considered promotional included attacks on the methodology of the WHI, arguments that clinical trial results should not guide treatment for individuals, and arguments that observational studies are as good as or better than randomized clinical trials for guiding clinical decisions. The promotional articles we identified also implied that the risks associated with hormone therapy have been exaggerated and that the benefits of hormone therapy have been or will be proven. Of the ten authors studied, eight were found to have declared payment for speaking or consulting on behalf of menopausal hormone manufacturers or for research support (seven of these eight were speakers or consultants). Thirty of 32 articles (90%) evaluated as promoting hormone therapy were authored by those with potential financial conflicts of interest, compared to 11 of 18 articles (61%) by those without such conflicts (p = 0.0025). Articles promoting the use of menopausal hormone therapy were 2.41 times (95% confidence interval 1.49–4.93) as likely to have been authored by authors with conflicts of interest as by authors without conflicts of interest. In articles from three authors with conflicts of interest some of the same text was repeated word-for-word in different articles.
There may be a connection between receiving industry funding for speaking, consulting, or research and the publication of promotional opinion pieces on menopausal hormone therapy.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Over the past three decades, menopausal hormones have been heavily promoted for preventing disease in women. However, the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) study—which enrolled more than 26,000 women in the US and which was published in 2004—found that estrogen-progestin and estrogen-only formulations (often prescribed to women around the age of menopause) increased the risk of stroke, deep vein thrombosis, dementia, and incontinence. Furthermore, this study found that the estrogen-progestin therapy increased rates of breast cancer. In fact, the estrogen-progestin arm of the WHI study was stopped in 2002 due to harmful findings, and the estrogen-only arm was stopped in 2004, also because of harmful findings. In addition, the study also found that neither therapy reduced cardiovascular risk or markedly benefited health-related quality of life measures.
Despite these results, two years after the results of WHI study were published, a survey of over 700 practicing gynecologists—the specialists who prescribe the majority of menopausal hormone therapies—in the US found that almost half did not find the findings of the WHI study convincing and that 48% disagreed with the decision to stop the trial early. Furthermore, follow-up surveys found similar results.
Why Was This Study Done?
It is unclear why gynecologists and other physicians continue to prescribe menopausal hormone therapies despite the results of the WHI. Some academics argue that published industry-funded reviews and commentaries may be designed to convey specific, but subtle, marketing messages and several academic analyses have used internal industry documents disclosed in litigation cases. So this study was conducted to investigate whether hormone therapy–promoting tone could be identified in narrative review articles and if so, whether these articles were more likely to have been authored by people who had accepted funding from hormone manufacturers.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers conducted a comprehensive literature search that identified 340 relevant articles published between July 2002 and June 2006—the four years following the cessation of the estrogen-progestin arm of the women's health initiative study. Ten authors had published four to six articles, 47 authored two or three articles, and 371 authored one article each. The researchers focused on authors who had published four or more articles in the four-year period under study and, after author names and affiliations were removed, 50 articles were evaluated by three readers for scientific accuracy and for tone. After individually analyzing a batch of articles, the readers met to provide their initial assessments, to discuss them, and to reach consensus on tone and scientific accuracy. Then after the papers were evaluated, each author was identified and the researchers searched for authors' potential financial conflicts of interest, defined as publicly disclosed information that the authors had received payment for research, speaking, or consulting on behalf of a manufacturer of menopausal hormone therapy.
Common themes in the 50 articles included arguments that clinical trial results should not guide treatment for individuals and suggestions that the risks associated with hormone therapy have been exaggerated and that the benefits of hormone therapy have been or will be proven. Furthermore, of the ten authors studied, eight were found to have received payment for research, speaking or consulting on behalf of menopause hormone manufacturers, and 30 of 32 articles evaluated as promoting hormone therapy were authored by those with potential financial conflicts of interest. Articles promoting the use of menopausal hormone therapy were more than twice as likely to have been written by authors with conflicts of interest as by authors without conflicts of interest. Furthermore, Three authors who were identified as having financial conflicts of interest were authors on articles where sections of their previously published articles were repeated word-for-word without citation.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The findings of this study suggest that there may be a link between receiving industry funding for speaking, consulting, or research and the publication of apparently promotional opinion pieces on menopausal hormone therapy. Furthermore, such publications may encourage physicians to continue prescribing these therapies to women of menopausal age. Therefore, physicians and other health care providers should interpret the content of review articles with caution. In addition, medical journals should follow the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts, which require that all authors submit signed statements of their participation in authorship and full disclosure of any conflicts of interest.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
The US National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more information on the Womens Health Initiative
The US National Institutes of Health provide more information about the effects of menopausal hormone replacement therapy
The Office of Women's Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provides information on menopausal hormone therapy
The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts presents Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts published in biomedical journals
The National Womens Health Network, a consumer advocacy group that takes no industry money, has factsheets and articles about menopausal hormone therapy
PharmedOut, a Georgetown University Medical Center project, has many resources on pharmaceutical marketing practices
PMCID: PMC3058057  PMID: 21423581
10.  Hormonal contraception and pelvic girdle pain during pregnancy: a population study of 91 721 pregnancies in the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort 
Human Reproduction (Oxford, England)  2013;28(11):3134-3140.
Is pre-pregnancy hormonal contraception use associated with the development of pelvic girdle pain during pregnancy?
In contrast to combined oral contraceptive pills, long lifetime exposure to progestin-only contraceptive pills or the use of a progestin intrauterine device during the final year before pregnancy were associated with pelvic girdle pain.
Pelvic girdle pain severely affects many women during pregnancy. Smaller studies have suggested that hormonal contraceptive use is involved in the underlying mechanisms, but evidence is inconclusive.
A population study during the years 1999–2008.
A total of 91 721 pregnancies included in the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study. Data were obtained by two self-administered questionnaires during pregnancy weeks 17 and 30.
Pelvic girdle pain was present in 12.9% of women who had used combined oral contraceptive pills during the last pre-pregnancy year, 16.4% of women who had used progestin-only contraceptive pills, 16.7% of women who had progestin injections and 20.7% of women who had used progestin intrauterine devices, compared with 15.3% of women who did not report use of hormonal contraceptives. After adjustment for other study factors, the use of a progestin intrauterine device was the only factor based on the preceding year associated with pelvic girdle pain [adjusted odds ratios (OR) 1.20; 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.11–1.31]. Long lifetime exposure to progestin-only contraceptive pills was also associated with pelvic girdle pain (adjusted OR 1.49; 95% CI: 1.01–2.20).
The participation rate was 38.5%. However, a recent study on the potential biases of skewed selection in the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study found the prevalence estimates but not the exposure-outcome associations to be influenced by the selection.
The results suggest that combined oral contraceptives can be used without fear of developing pelvic girdle pain during pregnancy. However, the influence of progestin intrauterine devices and long-term exposure to progestin-only contraceptive pills requires further study.
The present study was supported by the Norwegian Research Council. None of the authors has a conflict of interest.
PMCID: PMC3795467  PMID: 23887071
hormonal contraception; pelvic girdle pain; pregnancy; risk factors; the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study
11.  Changing Concepts: Menopausal Hormone Therapy and Breast Cancer 
Hormone therapy is still used by millions of women for menopausal symptoms. Concerns regarding hormone therapy and breast cancer were initially based on case reports and retrospective case–control studies. However, recent results from large prospective cohort studies and the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) randomized placebo-controlled hormone therapy trials have substantially changed concepts regarding how estrogen alone and estrogen plus progestin influence breast cancer. The preponderance of observational studies suggested that estrogen alone and estrogen plus progestin both increased the risk of breast cancer, with cancers commonly diagnosed at an early stage. However, substantially different results emerged from the WHI randomized hormone therapy trials. In the WHI trial evaluating estrogen plus progestin in postmenopausal women with an intact uterus, combined hormone therapy statistically significantly increased the risk of breast cancer and hindered breast cancer detection, leading to delayed diagnosis and a statistically significant increase in breast cancer mortality. By contrast, estrogen alone use by postmenopausal women with prior hysterectomy in the WHI trial did not substantially interfere with breast cancer detection and statistically significantly decreased the risk of breast cancer. Differential mammography usage patterns may explain differences between observational study and randomized trial results. In clinical practice, hormone therapy users have mammograms more frequently than nonusers, leading to more and earlier stage cancer detection. By contrast, in the WHI randomized trials, mammogram frequency was protocol mandated and balanced between comparison groups. Currently, the different effects of estrogen plus progestin vs estrogen alone on breast cancer are not completely understood.
PMCID: PMC3317878  PMID: 22427684
12.  Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation for the Treatment of Major Depressive Disorder 
Executive Summary
This review was conducted to assess the effectiveness of repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) in the treatment of major depressive disorder (MDD).
The Technology
rTMS is a noninvasive way to stimulate nerve cells in areas of the brain. During rTMS, an electrical current passes through a wire coil placed over the scalp. The current induces a magnetic field that produces an electrical field in the brain that then causes nerve cells to depolarize, resulting in the stimulation or disruption of brain activity.
Researchers have investigated rTMS as an option to treat MDD, as an add-on to drug therapy, and, in particular, as an alternative to electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) for patients with treatment-resistant depression.
The advantages of rTMS over ECT for patients with severe refractory depression are that general anesthesia is not needed, it is an outpatient procedure, it requires less energy, the simulation is specific and targeted, and convulsion is not required. The advantages of rTMS as an add-on treatment to drug therapy may include hastening of the clinical response when used with antidepressant drugs.
Review Strategy
The Medical Advisory Secretariat used its standard search strategy to locate international health technology assessments and English-language journal articles published from January 1996 to March 2004.
Summary of Findings
Some early meta-analyses suggested rTMS might be effective for the treatment of MDD (for treatment-resistant MDD and as an add-on treatment to drug therapy for patients not specifically defined as treatment resistant). There were, however, several crucial methodological limitations in the included studies that were not critically assessed. These are discussed below.
Recent meta-analyses (including 2 international health technology assessments) have done evidence-based critical analyses of studies that have assessed rTMS for MDD. The 2 most recent health technology assessments (from the Oxford Cochrane Collaboration and the Norwegian Centre for Health Technology Assessment) concluded that there is no evidence that rTMS is effective for the treatment of MDD, either as compared with a placebo for patients with treatment-resistant or nontreatment-resistant MDD, or as an alternative to ECT for patients with treatment-resistant MDD. This mainly due to the poor quality of the studies.
The major methodological limitations were identified in older meta-analyses, recent health technology assessments, and the most recently published trials (Level 2–4 evidence) on the effectiveness of rTMS for MDD are discussed below.
Small sample size was a limitation acknowledged by many of the authors. There was also a lack of a priori sample size calculation or justification.
Biased randomization may have been a problem. Generally, the published reports lacked detailed information on the method of allocation concealment used. This is important because it is impossible to determine if there was a possible influence (direct or indirect) in the allocation of the patients to different treatment groups.
The trials were single blind, evaluated by external blinded assessors, rather than double blind. Double blinding is more robust, because neither the participants nor the investigators know which participants are receiving the active treatment and which are getting a placebo. Those administering rTMS, however, cannot be blinded to whether they are administering the active treatment or a placebo.
There was patient variability among the studies. In some studies, the authors said that patients were “medication resistant,” but the definitions of resistant, if provided, were inconsistent or unclear. For example, some described “medication resistant” as failing at least one trial of drugs during the current depressive episode. Furthermore, it was unclear if the term “medication resistant” referred to antidepressants only or to combinations of antidepressants and other drug augmentation strategies (such as neuroleptics, benzodiazepine, carbamazepine, and lithium). Also variable was the type of depression (i.e., unipolar and/or bipolar), if patients were inpatients or outpatients, if they had psychotic symptoms or no psychotic symptoms, and the chronicity of depression.
Dropouts or withdrawals were a concern. Some studies reported that patients dropped out, but provided no further details. Intent-to-treat analysis was not done in any of the trials. This is important, because ignoring patients who drop out of a trial can bias the results, usually in favour of the treatment. This is because patients who withdraw from trials are less likely to have had the treatment, more likely to have missed their interim checkups, and more likely to have experienced adverse effects when taking the treatment, compared with patients who do not withdraw. (1)
Measurement of treatment outcomes using scales or inventories makes interpreting results and drawing conclusions difficult. The most common scale, the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HDRS) is based on a semistructured interview. Some authors (2) reported that rating scales based on semistructured interviews are more susceptible to observation bias than are self-administered questionnaires such as the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI). Martin et al. (3) argued that the lack of consistency in effect as determined by the 2 scales (a positive result after 2 weeks of treatment as measured by the HDRS and a negative result for the BDI) makes definitive conclusions about the nature of the change in mood of patients impossible. It was suggested that because of difficulties interpreting results from psychometric scales, (4) and the subjective or unstable character of MDD, other, more objective, outcome measures such as readmission to hospital, time to hospital discharge, time to adjunctive treatment, and time off work should be used to assess rTMS for the treatment of depression.
A placebo effect could have influenced the results. Many studies reported response rates for patients who received placebo treatment. For example, Klein et al. (5) reported a control group response rate as high as 25%. Patients receiving placebo rTMS may receive a small dose of magnetic energy that may alter their depression.
Short-term studies were the most common. Patients received rTMS treatment for 1 to 2 weeks. Most studies followed-up patients for 2 to 4 weeks post-treatment. Dannon et al. (6) followed-up patients who responded to a course of ECT or rTMS for up to 6 months; however, the assessment procedure was not blinded, the medication regimen during follow-up was not controlled, and initial baseline data for the patient groups were not reported. The long-term effectiveness of rTMS for the treatment of depression is unknown, as is the long-term use, if any, of maintenance therapy. The cost-effectiveness of rTMS for the treatment of depression is also unknown. A lack of long-term studies makes cost-effectiveness analysis difficult.
The complexity of possible combinations for administering rTMS makes comparing like with like difficult. Wasserman and Lisanby (7) have said that the method for precisely targeting the stimulation in this area is unreliable. It is unknown if the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex is the optimal location for treatment. Further, differences in rTMS administration include number of trains per session, duration of each train, and motor threshold.
Clinical versus statistical significance. Several meta-analyses and studies have found that the degree of therapeutic change associated with rTMS across studies is relatively modest; that is, results may be statistically, but not necessarily clinically, significant. (8-11). Conventionally, a 50% reduction in the HDRS scores is commonly accepted as a clinically important reduction in depression. Although some studies have observed a statistically significant reduction in the depression rating, many have not shows the clinically significant reduction of 50% on the HDRS. (11-13) Therefore, few patients in these studies would meet the standard criteria for response. (9)
Clinical/methodological diversity and statistical heterogeneity. In the Norwegian health technology assessment, Aarre et al. (14) said that a formal meta-analysis was not feasible because the designs of the studies varied too much, particularly in how rTMS was administered and in the characteristics of the patients. They noted that the quality of the study designs was poor. The 12 studies that comprised the assessment had small samples, and highly variable inclusion criteria and study designs. The patients’ previous histories, diagnoses, treatment histories, and treatment settings were often insufficiently characterized. Furthermore, many studies reported that patients had treatment-resistant MDD, yet did not listclear criteria for the designation. Without this information, Aarre and colleagues suggested that the interpretation of the results is difficult and the generalizability of results is questionable. They concluded that rTMS cannot be recommended as a standard treatment for depression: “More, larger and more carefully designed studies are needed to demonstrate convincingly a clinically relevant effect of rTMS.”
In the Cochrane Collaboration systematic review, Martin et al. (3;15) said that the complexity of possible combinations for administering rTMS makes comparison of like versus like difficult. A statistical test for heterogeneity (chi-square test) examines if the observed treatment effects are more different from each other than one would expect due to random error (or chance) alone. (16) However, this statistical test must be interpreted with caution because it has low power in the (common) situation of a meta-analysis when the trials have small sample sizes or are few. This means that while a statistically significant result may indicate a problem with heterogeneity, a nonsignificant result must not be taken as evidence of no heterogeneity.
Despite not finding statistically significant heterogeneity, Martin et al. reported that the overall mean baseline depression values for the severity of depression were higher in the treatment group than in the placebo group. (3;15) Although these differences were not significant at the level of each study, they may have introduced potential bias into the meta-analysis of pooled data by accentuating the tendency for regression to the mean of the more extreme values. Individual patient data from all the studies were not available; therefore, an appropriate adjustment according to baseline severity was not possible. Martin et al. concluded that the findings from the systematic review and meta-analysis provided insufficient evidence to suggest that rTMS is effective in the treatment of depression. Moreover, there were several confounding factors (e.g., definition of treatment resistance) in the studies, thus the authors concluded, “The rTMS technique needs more high quality trials to show its effectiveness for therapeutic use.”
Due to several serious methodological limitations in the studies that have examined the effectiveness of rTMS in patients with MDD, it is not possible to conclude that rTMS either is or is not effective as a treatment for MDD (in treatment-resistant depression or in nontreatment-resistant depression).
PMCID: PMC3387754  PMID: 23074457
13.  Safety, efficacy and patient satisfaction with continuous daily administration of levonorgestrel/ethinylestradiol oral contraceptives 
The progestational steroid norgestrel was synthesized and tested between 1960 and 1965 through an international cooperation between Wyeth, USA and Schering, Berlin. It is a mixture of two “enantiomers,” with only one form (designated as levonorgestrel) biologically active. When taken orally, it is rapidly absorbed, not subjected to a “first-pass” effect and is approximately 90% bioavailable, with a circulating half-life around 15 hours. Its contraceptive action is exerted at the central (hypothalamic) and peripheral (cervical mucus and endometrium) levels. Levonorgestrel (LNG), alone or in combination with ethinyl estradiol (EE), is the most widely employed contraceptive progestin: it is used in combined oral contraceptives, progestogen-only pills, long-acting contraceptive implants, intrauterine contraceptive systems and in emergency contraception. It is also the steroid of choice for new oral contraceptive regimens aimed at reducing the frequency of bleeding episodes. This novel approach, already tried more than 30 years ago, gained interest around the year 2000 when surveys of women’s attitudes toward monthly menstrual bleeding started to show a major change: more and more women declared that they would welcome a hormonal contraceptive method that reduced bleeding episodes to 4, 2 or even 1 per year. At this point, while the debate on the significance and “usefulness” of menstruation went on, attention focused on new regimens. The first new modality consisted of changing the 7-day medication-free interval, either shortening it to fewer than 7 days, or by the administration of low-dose estrogens during the interval between packages. Then, continuous administration regimens started to be investigated. This, however, did not happen suddenly, since, in specific situations, doctors had for years empirically utilized various continuous administration regimens. The first extended-cycle oral contraceptive regimen introduced in clinical practice is an 84-day regimen that results in bleeding only 4 times a year. A commercial product specifically packed for continuous use is now available in Europe and contains 30 μg EE and 150 μg LNG. In a variation of this regimen, after administration of the same combination for 84 days, women are given 7 pills containing 10 μg EE. A 6-monthly regimen has also been tested in a small study using EE 20 μg plus LNG 100 μg taken with and without a hormone-free interval. Women in the continuous group reported significantly fewer bleeding days requiring protection and were more likely to have amenorrhea; in addition they also reported significantly fewer days of bloating and menstrual pain. A yearly regimen is now being developed. Each pill of this novel formulation contains EE 20 μg and LNG 90 μg to be taken continuously for 364 days (13 cycles) per year. A phase III trial has now evaluated safety, efficacy and menses inhibition. At the end of the 1-year trial amenorrhea was present in 58.7% of the women and a complete absence of bleeding in 79.0%. Overall, the number of bleeding and spotting days per pill pack declined with time and adverse events and discontinuations were comparable to those reported for cyclic oral contraceptive regimens.
PMCID: PMC2778424  PMID: 19936155
levonorgestrel; oral contraceptive; continuous administration; menstruation; amenorrhea
14.  Hormonal Contraception and the Risk of HIV Acquisition: An Individual Participant Data Meta-analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2015;12(1):e1001778.
In a meta-analysis of individual participant data, Charles Morrison and colleagues explore the association between hormonal contraception use and risk of HIV infection in sub-Saharan Africa.
Observational studies of a putative association between hormonal contraception (HC) and HIV acquisition have produced conflicting results. We conducted an individual participant data (IPD) meta-analysis of studies from sub-Saharan Africa to compare the incidence of HIV infection in women using combined oral contraceptives (COCs) or the injectable progestins depot-medroxyprogesterone acetate (DMPA) or norethisterone enanthate (NET-EN) with women not using HC.
Methods and Findings
Eligible studies measured HC exposure and incident HIV infection prospectively using standardized measures, enrolled women aged 15–49 y, recorded ≥15 incident HIV infections, and measured prespecified covariates. Our primary analysis estimated the adjusted hazard ratio (aHR) using two-stage random effects meta-analysis, controlling for region, marital status, age, number of sex partners, and condom use. We included 18 studies, including 37,124 women (43,613 woman-years) and 1,830 incident HIV infections. Relative to no HC use, the aHR for HIV acquisition was 1.50 (95% CI 1.24–1.83) for DMPA use, 1.24 (95% CI 0.84–1.82) for NET-EN use, and 1.03 (95% CI 0.88–1.20) for COC use. Between-study heterogeneity was mild (I2 < 50%). DMPA use was associated with increased HIV acquisition compared with COC use (aHR 1.43, 95% CI 1.23–1.67) and NET-EN use (aHR 1.32, 95% CI 1.08–1.61). Effect estimates were attenuated for studies at lower risk of methodological bias (compared with no HC use, aHR for DMPA use 1.22, 95% CI 0.99–1.50; for NET-EN use 0.67, 95% CI 0.47–0.96; and for COC use 0.91, 95% CI 0.73–1.41) compared to those at higher risk of bias (pinteraction = 0.003). Neither age nor herpes simplex virus type 2 infection status modified the HC–HIV relationship.
This IPD meta-analysis found no evidence that COC or NET-EN use increases women’s risk of HIV but adds to the evidence that DMPA may increase HIV risk, underscoring the need for additional safe and effective contraceptive options for women at high HIV risk. A randomized controlled trial would provide more definitive evidence about the effects of hormonal contraception, particularly DMPA, on HIV risk.
Editors’ Summary
AIDS has killed about 36 million people since the first recorded case of the disease in 1981. About 35 million people (including 25 million living in sub-Saharan Africa) are currently infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, and every year, another 2.3 million people become newly infected with HIV. At the beginning of the epidemic, more men than women were infected with HIV. Now, about half of all adults infected with HIV are women. In 2013, almost 60% of all new HIV infections among young people aged 15–24 years occurred among women, and it is estimated that, worldwide, 50 young women are newly infected with HIV every hour. Most women become infected with HIV through unprotected intercourse with an infected male partner—biologically, women are twice as likely to become infected through unprotected intercourse as men. A woman’s risk of becoming infected with HIV can be reduced by abstaining from sex, by having one or a few partners, and by always using condoms.
Why Was This Study Done?
Women and societies both benefit from effective contraception. When contraception is available, women can avoid unintended pregnancies, fewer women and babies die during pregnancy and childbirth, and maternal and infant health improves. However, some (but not all) observational studies (investigations that measure associations between the characteristics of participants and their subsequent development of specific diseases) have reported an association between hormonal contraceptive use and an increased risk of HIV acquisition by women. So, does hormonal contraception increase the risk of HIV acquisition among women or not? Here, to investigate this question, the researchers undertake an individual participant data meta-analysis of studies conducted in sub-Saharan Africa (a region where both HIV infection and unintended pregnancies are common) to compare the incidence of HIV infection (the number of new cases in a population during a given time period) among women using and not using hormonal contraception. Meta-analysis is a statistical method that combines the results of several studies; an individual participant data meta-analysis combines the data recorded for each individual involved in the studies rather than the aggregated results from each study.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers included 18 studies that measured hormonal contraceptive use and incident HIV infection among women aged 15–49 years living in sub-Saharan Africa in their meta-analysis. More than 37,000 women took part in these studies, and 1,830 became newly infected with HIV. Half of the women were not using hormonal contraception, a quarter were using depot-medroxyprogesterone acetate (DMPA; an injectable hormonal contraceptive), and the remainder were using combined oral contraceptives (COCs) or norethisterone enanthate (NET-EN, another injectable contraceptive). After adjustment for other factors likely to influence HIV acquisition (for example, condom use), women using DMPA had a 1.5-fold increased risk of HIV acquisition compared to women not using hormonal contraception. There was a slightly increased risk of HIV acquisition among women using NET-EN compared to women not using hormonal contraception, but this increase was not statistically significant (it may have happened by chance alone). There was no increased risk of HIV acquisition associated with COC use. DMPA use was associated with a 1.43-fold and 1.32-fold increased risk of HIV acquisition compared with COC and NET-EN use, respectively. Finally, neither age nor herpes simplex virus 2 infection status modified the effect of hormonal contraceptive use on HIV acquisition.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The findings of this individual patient data meta-analysis provide no evidence that COC or NET-EN use increases a woman’s risk of acquiring HIV, but add to the evidence suggesting that DMPA use increases the risk of HIV acquisition. These findings are likely to be more accurate than those of previous meta-analyses that used aggregated data but are likely to be limited by the quality, design, and representativeness of the studies included in the analysis. These findings nevertheless highlight the need to develop additional safe and effective contraceptive options for women at risk of HIV, particularly those living in sub-Saharan Africa, where although contraceptive use is generally low, DMPA is the most widely used hormonal contraceptive. In addition, these findings highlight the need to initiate randomized controlled trials to provide more definitive evidence of the effects of hormonal contraception, particularly DMPA, on HIV risk.
Additional Information.
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
Information is available from the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases on HIV infection and AIDS
NAM/aidsmap provides basic information about HIV/AIDS, and summaries of recent research findings on HIV care and treatment, including personal stories about living with HIV/AIDS and a news report on this meta-analysis
Information is available from Avert, an international AIDS charity, on many aspects of HIV/AIDS, including detailed information on women, HIV, and AIDS, and on HIV and AIDS in South Africa (in English and Spanish); personal stories of women living with HIV are available
The World Health Organization provides information on all aspects of HIV/AIDS (in several languages); information about a 2012 WHO technical consultation about hormonal contraception and HIV
The 2013 UNAIDS World AIDS Day report provides up-to-date information about the AIDS epidemic and efforts to halt it; UNAIDS also provides information about HIV and hormonal contraception
PMCID: PMC4303292  PMID: 25612136
15.  Hormone Replacement Therapy Diminishes Hearing in Perimenopausal Mice 
Hearing research  2009;252(1-2):29-36.
We recently discovered that progestin in hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for postmenopausal women has detrimental effects on the ear and central auditory system (Guimaraes et al., Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. – USA, 103: 14246-9). To start determining the generality and neural bases of these human findings, the present study examined the effects of combination HRT (estrogen+progestin) and estrogen alone on hearing in perimenopausal mice. Specifically, auditory brainstem responses (ABRs-sensitivity of the auditory system) and distortion product otoacoustic emissions (DPOAEs-cochlear outer hair cell system) were employed. Middle age female CBA mice received either a time-release, subcutaneous implanted pellet of estrogen+progestin, estrogen alone, or placebo. Longitudinal comparisons of ABR threshold data obtained at 4 months of treatment revealed statistically significant declines in auditory sensitivity over time for the combined estrogen+progestin treatment group, with the estrogen only group revealing milder changes at 3, 6 and 32 kHz. DPOAE testing revealed statistically significant differences for the estrogen+progestin treatment group in the high and middle frequency ranges (15–29 and 30–45kHz) after as early as 2 months of treatment (p<0.01 and p<0.001, respectively). Statistically significant changes were also seen at 4 months of treatment across all frequencies for the combined HRT group. These data suggest that estrogen+progestin HRT therapy of 4 months duration impairs outer hair cell functioning and overall auditory sensitivity. These findings indicate that estrogen+progestin HRT may actually accelerate age-related hearing loss, relative to estrogen monotherapy; findings that are consistent with the clinical hearing loss observed in aging women that have taken combination HRT.
PMCID: PMC2698030  PMID: 19269311
Aging; Hearing Loss; Presbycusis; HRT; Otoacoustic Emissions; Progestin; Progesterone; Estrogen; Auditory Brainstem Response; Sex Hormones
16.  Assessing the risk of venous thromboembolic events in women taking progestin-only contraception: a meta-analysis 
Objectives To evaluate the risk of venous thromboembolic events associated with the use of progestin-only contraception and whether that risk differs with the mode of drug delivery (oral, intrauterine, or depot injection).
Design Systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials and observational studies.
Data sources Pubmed, Embase, Cochrane Library, and reference lists of relevant reviews.
Study selection Randomised controlled trials and case-control, cohort, and cross sectional studies with venous thromboembolic outcome for progestin-only contraception reported relative to a non-hormone comparator group.
Data extraction Data were extracted by two independent investigators, and consensus for inclusion was reached after assessment by additional investigators.
Results Among the 2022 unique references identified by all searches, eight observational studies fulfilled inclusion criteria. A total of 147 women across all studies were diagnosed with a venous thromboembolic event while taking progestin-only contraception, and the summary measure for the adjusted relative risk of a venous thromboembolic episode for users versus non-users of a progestin-only contraceptive was, based on the random effects model, 1.03 (95% CI 0.76 to 1.39). Subgroup analysis confirmed there was no association between venous thromboembolic risk and progestin-only pills (relative risk 0.90 (0.57 to 1.45)) or a progestin intrauterine device (0.61 (0.24 to 1.53)). The relative risk of a venous thromboembolic event for users of an injectable progestin versus non-users was 2.67 (1.29 to 5.53).
Conclusions Published data assessing the risk of venous thromboembolism in women prescribed progestin-only contraception are limited. In this meta-analysis of eight observational studies, the use of progestin-only contraception was not associated with an increased risk of venous thromboembolism compared with non-users of hormonal contraception. The potential association between injectable progestins and thrombosis requires further study.
PMCID: PMC3413580  PMID: 22872710
17.  Can Biomarkers Identify Women at Increased Stroke Risk? The Women's Health Initiative Hormone Trials 
PLoS Clinical Trials  2007;2(6):e28.
The Women's Health Initiative hormone trials identified a 44% increase in ischemic stroke risk with combination estrogen plus progestin and a 39% increase with estrogen alone. We undertook a case-control biomarker study to elucidate underlying mechanisms, and to potentially identify women who would be at lower or higher risk for stroke with postmenopausal hormone therapy (HT).
The hormone trials were randomized, double-blind, and placebo controlled.
The Women's Health Initiative trials were conducted at 40 clinical centers in the United States.
The trials enrolled 27,347 postmenopausal women, aged 50–79 y.
We randomized 16,608 women with intact uterus to conjugated estrogens 0.625 mg with medroxyprogesterone acetate 2.5 mg daily or placebo, and 10,739 women with prior hysterectomy to conjugated estrogens 0.625 mg daily or placebo.
Outcome Measures:
Stroke was ascertained during 5.6 y of follow-up in the estrogen plus progestin trial and 6.8 y of follow-up in the estrogen alone trial.
No baseline clinical characteristics, including gene polymorphisms, identified women for whom the stroke risk from HT was higher. Paradoxically, women with higher baseline levels of some stroke-associated biomarkers had a lower risk of stroke when assigned to estrogen plus progestin compared to placebo. For example, those with higher IL-6 were not at increased stroke risk when assigned to estrogen plus progestin (odds ratio 1.28) but were when assigned to placebo (odds ratio 3.47; p for difference = 0.02). Similar findings occurred for high baseline PAP, leukocyte count, and D-dimer. However, only an interaction of D-dimer during follow-up interaction with HT and stroke was marginally significant (p = 0.03).
Biomarkers did not identify women at higher stroke risk with postmenopausal HT. Some biomarkers appeared to identify women at lower stroke risk with estrogen plus progestin, but these findings may be due to chance.
Editorial Commentary
Background: The Women's Health Initiative hormone trials originally set out to evaluate whether postmenopausal hormone therapy (HT, estrogen in the case of women who had had a hysterectomy, and estrogen plus progestin for women who had not had a hysterectomy) reduced the risk of heart attacks and strokes, as compared to placebo. The trials were stopped early, and the investigators found that both estrogen alone, as well as estrogen plus progestin increased the risk of stroke amongst women participating in the trials. As part of a secondary analysis of data from these trials, the investigators aimed to explore possible associations between various biological markers (such as variants in particular genes, and levels of particular lipids, proteins, and other markers in blood), and the risk of a woman experiencing a stroke in the trials. Specifically, they wanted to evaluate whether there was any evidence for particular markers being associated with the risk of a stroke; and then whether that risk was modified by whether a woman took HT in the trials.
What the trial shows: In this study, the researchers collected early cases of ischemic stroke in the trials (combining cases among women taking estrogen with those for women taking both estrogen and progestin), and matched these to control individuals, or women participating in the trials who did not experience a stroke. Two hundred five women who experienced a stroke were compared to 878 control individuals. The markers analyzed included those for which there was already some evidence for an association with stroke. Several clinical characteristics and some biomarkers, as measured at the start of the trial, but none of the gene variants, were linked with later risk of stroke. However, none of these clinical characteristics or gene variants specifically identified women who were at greater risk of experiencing a stroke within the HT arms of the trial. High levels of two biomarkers, IL-6 and PAP, did seem to identify women who were at lower risk of experiencing a stroke within the HT arms of the trial. This finding is interesting, because high levels of these markers had previously been suggested as being associated with a higher risk of stroke. Levels of several biomarkers changed during the trial, but for only one biomarker, D-dimer, did the change (an increase in levels) seem to predict higher risk of stroke amongst women receiving HT.
Strengths and limitations: A particular strength of this study includes the nesting of a case-control study within the Women's Health Initiative trials, in which HT or placebo was randomly assigned. This design minimizes the chance that individuals taking HT differ in their stroke risk from individuals taking placebo. However, the power of this study to detect anything other than large associations is limited; together with the limitation of multiple statistical testing, the findings here must be interpreted as hypotheses for further study and not definitive conclusions.
Contribution to the evidence: This study adds data relating to possible predictive risk markers for stroke among users of HT. The hypotheses raised here remain to be tested in further studies.
PMCID: PMC1891725  PMID: 17571161
18.  Burden of Depressive Disorders by Country, Sex, Age, and Year: Findings from the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(11):e1001547.
In this paper, Ferrari and colleagues analyzed the burden of depressive disorders in GBD 2010 and identified depressive disorders as a leading cause of burden. The authors present severity proportions; burden by country, region, age, sex, and year; as well as burden of depressive disorders as a risk factor for suicide and ischemic heart disease.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Depressive disorders were a leading cause of burden in the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) 1990 and 2000 studies. Here, we analyze the burden of depressive disorders in GBD 2010 and present severity proportions, burden by country, region, age, sex, and year, as well as burden of depressive disorders as a risk factor for suicide and ischemic heart disease.
Methods and Findings
Burden was calculated for major depressive disorder (MDD) and dysthymia. A systematic review of epidemiological data was conducted. The data were pooled using a Bayesian meta-regression. Disability weights from population survey data quantified the severity of health loss from depressive disorders. These weights were used to calculate years lived with disability (YLDs) and disability adjusted life years (DALYs). Separate DALYs were estimated for suicide and ischemic heart disease attributable to depressive disorders.
Depressive disorders were the second leading cause of YLDs in 2010. MDD accounted for 8.2% (5.9%–10.8%) of global YLDs and dysthymia for 1.4% (0.9%–2.0%). Depressive disorders were a leading cause of DALYs even though no mortality was attributed to them as the underlying cause. MDD accounted for 2.5% (1.9%–3.2%) of global DALYs and dysthymia for 0.5% (0.3%–0.6%). There was more regional variation in burden for MDD than for dysthymia; with higher estimates in females, and adults of working age. Whilst burden increased by 37.5% between 1990 and 2010, this was due to population growth and ageing. MDD explained 16 million suicide DALYs and almost 4 million ischemic heart disease DALYs. This attributable burden would increase the overall burden of depressive disorders from 3.0% (2.2%–3.8%) to 3.8% (3.0%–4.7%) of global DALYs.
GBD 2010 identified depressive disorders as a leading cause of burden. MDD was also a contributor of burden allocated to suicide and ischemic heart disease. These findings emphasize the importance of including depressive disorders as a public-health priority and implementing cost-effective interventions to reduce its burden.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Depressive disorders are common mental disorders that occur in people of all ages across all world regions. Depression—an overwhelming feeling of sadness and hopelessness that can last for months or years—can make people feel that life is no longer worth living. People affected by depression lose interest in the activities they used to enjoy and can also be affected by physical symptoms such as disturbed sleep. Major depressive disorder (MDD, also known as clinical depression) is an episodic disorder with a chronic (long-term) outcome and increased risk of death. It involves at least one major depressive episode in which the affected individual experiences a depressed mood almost all day, every day for at least 2 weeks. Dysthymia is a milder, chronic form of depression that lasts for at least 2 years. People with dysthymia are often described as constantly unhappy. Both these subtypes of depression (and others such as that experienced in bipolar disorder) can be treated with antidepressant drugs and with talking therapies.
Why Was This Study Done?
Depressive disorders were a leading cause of disease burden in the 1990 and 2000 Global Burden of Disease (GBD) studies, collaborative scientific efforts that quantify the health loss attributable to diseases and injuries in terms of disability adjusted life years (DALYs; one DALY represents the loss of a healthy year of life). DALYs are calculated by adding together the years of life lived with a disability (YLD, a measure that includes a disability weight factor reflecting disease severity) and the years of life lost because of disorder-specific premature death. The GBD initiative aims to provide data that can be used to improve public-health policy. Thus, knowing that depressive disorders are a leading cause of disease burden worldwide has helped to prioritize depressive disorders in global public-health agendas. Here, the researchers analyze the burden of MDD and dysthymia in GBD 2010 by country, region, age, and sex, and calculate the burden of suicide and ischemic heart disease attributable to depressive disorders (depression is a risk factor for suicide and ischemic heart disease). GBD 2010 is broader in scope than previous GBD studies and quantifies the direct burden of 291 diseases and injuries and the burden attributable to 67 risk factors across 187 countries.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers collected data on the prevalence, incidence, remission rates, and duration of MDD and dysthymia and on the excess deaths caused by these disorders from published articles. They pooled these data using a statistical method called Bayesian meta-regression and calculated YLDs for MDD and dysthymia using disability weights collected in population surveys. MDD accounted for 8.2% of global YLDs in 2010, making it the second leading cause of YLDs. Dysthymia accounted for 1.4% of global YLDs. MDD and dysthymia were also leading causes of DALYs, accounting for 2.5% and 0.5% of global DALYs, respectively. The regional variation in the burden was greater for MDD than for dysthymia, the burden of depressive disorders was higher in women than men, the largest proportion of YLDs from depressive disorders occurred among adults of working age, and the global burden of depressive disorders increased by 37.5% between 1990 and 2010 because of population growth and ageing. Finally, MDD explained an additional 16 million DALYs and 4 million DALYs when it was considered as a risk factor for suicide and ischemic heart disease, respectively. This “attributable” burden increased the overall burden of depressive disorders to 3.8% of global DALYs.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings update and extend the information available from GBD 1990 and 2000 on the global burden of depressive disorders. They confirm that depressive disorders are a leading direct cause of the global disease burden and show that MDD also contributes to the burden allocated to suicide and ischemic heart disease. The estimates of the global burden of depressive disorders reported in GBD 2010 are likely to be more accurate than those in previous GBD studies but are limited by factors such as the sparseness of data on depressive disorders from developing countries and the validity of the disability weights used to calculate YLDs. Even so, these findings reinforce the importance of treating depressive disorders as a public-health priority and of implementing cost-effective interventions to reduce their ubiquitous burden.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
The US National Institute of Mental Health provides information on all aspects of depression
The UK National Health Service Choices website also provides detailed information about depression and includes personal stories about depression
More personal stories about depression are available from
MedlinePlus provides links to other resources about depression (in English and Spanish)
The World Health Organization provides information on depression and on the global burden of disease (in several languages)
Information about the Global Burden of Disease initiative is available
beyondblue provides many resources on depression
The Queensland Centre for Mental Health Research provides information on epidemiology and the global burden of disease specifically for mental disorders
PMCID: PMC3818162  PMID: 24223526
19.  Hormonal Contraception and Metabolic Outcomes in Women with or at Risk for HIV Infection 
The use of hormonal contraception (HC) is increasing in HIV-infected women. Both HC and HIV infection have been associated with adverse metabolic outcomes. We investigated the association of progestin-only and combined (estrogen/progestin) HC with disorders of glucose and lipid metabolism in HIV-infected and uninfected women.
Linear mixed models evaluated the association of HC type with fasting HDL, LDL, triglycerides, the homeostasis model assessment estimate of insulin resistance (HOMA-IR), and glucose in 885 HIV-infected and 408 HIV-uninfected women from the Women's Interagency HIV Study seen between October 2000 and September 2005.
Compared to non-HC users, progestin-only HC was independently associated with lower HDL (-3mg/dL;95% confidence interval[CI]:-5,-1 in HIV-infected and -6mg/dL;95% CI:-9,-3 in HIV-uninfected women), greater HOMA (+0.86;95% CI:0.51,1.22 and +0.56;95% CI:0.12,1.01). Combined HC was associated with higher HDL(+5mg/dL;95% CI:2,7 and +5mg/dL;95% CI:3,7).
Progestin–only HC is associated with lower HDL and greater HOMA-IR than non-HC users. Combined HC may be preferred in HIV-infected women of reproductive age at risk for cardiovascular disease, but interactions with antiretroviral therapy that may impair contraceptive efficacy have been reported. Alternative HC methods that minimize adverse outcomes but maintain efficacy require further study.
PMCID: PMC2886798  PMID: 19950431
HIV/AIDS; hormonal contraception; Depo Provera®; HDL; triglycerides
20.  Polymorphisms in genes involved in estrogen and progesterone metabolism and mammographic density changes in women randomized to postmenopausal hormone therapy: results from a pilot study 
Breast Cancer Research  2005;7(3):R336-R344.
Mammographic density is a strong independent risk factor for breast cancer, and can be modified by hormonal exposures. Identifying genetic variants that determine increases in mammographic density in hormone users may be important in understanding hormonal carcinogenesis of the breast.
We obtained mammograms and DNA from 232 postmenopausal women aged 45 to 75 years who had participated in one of two randomized, double-blind clinical trials with estrogen therapy (104 women, taking 1 mg/day of micronized 17β-estradiol, E2), combined estrogen and progestin therapy (34 women, taking 17β-estradiol and 5 mg/day of medroxyprogesterone acetate for 12 days/month) or matching placebos (94 women). Mammographic percentage density (MPD) was measured on baseline and 12-month mammograms with a validated computer-assisted method. We evaluated polymorphisms in genes involved in estrogen metabolism (catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT (Val158Met)), cytochrome P450 1B1 (CYP1B1 (Val432Leu)), UDP-glucuronosyltransferase 1A1 (UGT1A1 (<7/≥ 7 TA repeats))) and progesterone metabolism (aldo-keto reductase 1C4 (AKR1C4 (Leu311Val))) with changes in MPD.
The adjusted mean change in MPD was +4.6% in the estrogen therapy arm and +7.2% in the combined estrogen and progestin therapy arm, compared with +0.02% in the placebo arm (P = 0.0001). None of the genetic variants predicted mammographic density changes in women using estrogen therapy. Both the AKR1C4 and the CYP1B1 polymorphisms predicted mammographic density change in the combined estrogen and progestin therapy group (P < 0.05). In particular, the eight women carrying one or two low-activity AKR1C4 Val alleles showed a significantly greater increase in MPD (16.7% and 29.3%) than women homozygous for the Leu allele (4.0%).
Although based on small numbers, these findings suggest that the magnitude of the increase in mammographic density in women using combined estrogen and progestin therapy may be greater in those with genetically determined lower activity of enzymes that metabolize estrogen and progesterone.
PMCID: PMC1143576  PMID: 15987428
clinical trial; estrogen and progestin therapy; genetic variants; mammographic density; randomized
21.  Benefits and risks of hormonal contraception for women 
Scientific background
A large proportion of women of reproductive age in Germany use various methods of pregnancy prevention (contraception), among them various hormone-based methods. Hormonal contraceptives may be divided into combined estrogen-progestogen contraceptives (pills, skin patches, vaginal rings), progestogen-only contraceptives (pills, injections, implants, hormone spirals) and emergency contraceptives.
Research questions
The evaluation addressed the question of benefits and risks of hormonal contraceptives, their economic effects as well as their ethical-social and legal implications.
A systematic literature search was conducted in April 2006 starting from 2000. The evaluation is primarily based on systematic reviews.
In perfect use, all hormonal contraceptives excluding emergency contraceptives proved to be the most effective reversible contraceptive methods (rate of unintended pregnancies 0.05% to 0.3%). However, the typical use of oral contraceptives, injections, skin patches, and vaginal rings, which also considers possible application errors, showed a lower contraceptive efficacy (rate of unintended pregnancies 3% to 8%). It was lower than that of copper spirals.
The risk of venous thromboembolism increased three to six times in users of hormonal contraceptives, the risks of stroke and myocardial infarction two to three times. The risk declined after discontinuation of use. The effects were estrogen-dose and progestogen-type dependent.
The use of hormonal contraceptives showed a relative risk of ovarian and endometrial carcinomas of approximately 0.5 or 0.7, of breast and cervical cancer of approximately 1.2 or 1.6. The effect remained several years after discontinuation of use. The results concerning hepatocellular carcinoma suggested a carcinogenic effect.
In women with acne, an improvement due to use of hormonal contraceptives was proven. Cervical chlamydial infections were more frequent in users of hormonal contraception. Headache appeared mostly only at the beginning of the use of combined oral contraceptives. Progestogen-only contraceptives worsened the results of the glucose tolerance test. A review of low evidence reported further risks of hormonal contraceptives (concerning menstrual problems, ovarian cysts, bone density, thyroid diseases and rheumatoid arthritis) as well as further benefits (concerning blood pressure and Crohn’s disease).
Hormonal spirals were shown to be more effective than spirals which do not release hormones. In emergency contraception, Levonorgestrel was more effective than the Yuzpe method. Most other proven differences between hormonal contraceptives were related to menstrual problems.
After spirals with or without hormone release, the other hormonal contraceptives were shown in typical use to be the second most cost-effective reversible methods of contraception.
The addressed questions could be answered only on relatively low evidence level, partly only for applications with estrogen doses which are not used in Germany any more. The transferability of the results of the analysed primary health-economics studies on the current situation in Germany is limited (clinical assumptions from out-dated information sources of low evidence levels, cost assumptions from the American health system).
In perfect use, hormonal contraceptives have to be classified as the most effective reversible contraceptive methods. For the individual decision concerning the use of hormonal contraception, benefits should be related to the additional risks. Alternative methods such as spirals should be prioritised if perfect use seems to be impossible. In this case, spirals are also preferable from health-economics perspective. No ethical-social or legal conclusions can be derived from the available data.
PMCID: PMC3011324  PMID: 21289940
22.  Lifetime hormonal factors may predict late-life depression in women 
International Psychogeriatrics / Ipa  2008;20(6):1203-1218.
Fluctuating hormone levels are known to influence a woman’s mood and well-being. This study aimed to determine whether lifetime hormonal markers are associated with late-life depression symptoms among elderly community-dwelling women.
Detailed reproductive histories of 1013 women aged 65 years and over were obtained using questionnaires and depressive symptoms were assessed using the Centre for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale. Multivariate logistic regression models were generated to determine whether any lifetime endogenous or exogenous hormonal factors were associated with late-life depression.
The prevalence of depressive symptoms was 17%. Age at menopause was associated with depressive symptoms, but only among women with a lower education level. For these women, an earlier age at menopause increased their risk of late-life depression (linear effect, OR=0.95, 95%CI: 0.91–0.99). The odds of late-life depression were also increased for women who were past (OR=1.6, 95%CI: 1.1–2.5), but not current hormonal replacement users. On the other hand, long-term oral contraceptive use (≥10 years) was protective against depression (OR=0.3, 95%CI: 0.1–0.9). These associations remained significant even after extensive adjustment for a range of potential confounding factors, including socio-demographic factors, mental and physical incapacities, antidepressant use and past depression. The other factors examined, including age at first menses, parity, age at childbirth and surgical menopause, were not associated with late-life depressive symptoms.
Lifetime hormonal factors that are significantly associated with depression symptoms in later life have been identified. Further work is needed to determine how potential hormonal interventions could be used in the treatment of late-life depression in certain sub-groups of women.
PMCID: PMC2612035  PMID: 18533067
23.  The effect of combined oral contraception on testosterone levels in healthy women: a systematic review and meta-analysis 
Human Reproduction Update  2013;20(1):76-105.
Combined oral contraceptives (COCs) reduce levels of androgen, especially testosterone (T), by inhibiting ovarian and adrenal androgen synthesis and by increasing levels of sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG). Although this suppressive effect has been investigated by numerous studies over many years, to our knowledge no systematic review concerning this issue had been performed. This systematic review and meta-analysis was performed to evaluate the effect of COCs on concentrations of total T, free T and SHBG in healthy women and to evaluate differences between the various types of COCs (e.g. estrogen dose, type of progestin) and the assays used to assess total T and free T.
A review of the literature was performed using database searches (MEDLINE, EMBASE and the Cochrane Central Register of Clinical Trials) and all publications (from inception date until July 2012) investigating the effect of COCs on androgen levels in healthy women were considered eligible for selection. Three reviewers were involved in study selection, data extraction and critical appraisal. For the meta-analysis, data on total T, free T and SHBG were extracted and combined using random effects analysis. Additional subgroup analyses were performed to evaluate differences between the various types of COCs (e.g. estrogen dose, type of progestin) and the assays used to assess total T or free T.
A total of 151 records were identified by systematic review and 42 studies with a total of 1495 healthy young women (age range: 18–40 years) were included in the meta-analysis. All included studies were experimental studies and 21 were non-comparative. Pooling of the results derived from all the included papers showed that total T levels significantly decreased during COC use [mean difference (MD) (95% confidence interval, CI) −0.49 nmol/l (−0.55, −0.42); P < 0.001]. Significantly lower levels of free T were also found [relative change (95% CI) 0.39 (0.35, 0.43); P < 0.001], with a mean decrease of 61%. On the contrary, SHBG concentrations significantly increased during all types of COC use [MD (95% CI) 99.08 nmol/l (86.43, 111.73); P < 0.001]. Subgroup analyses revealed that COCs containing 20–25 µg EE had similar effects on total and free T compared with COCs with 30–35 µg EE. In addition, suppressive effects on T levels were not different when comparing different types of progestins. However, subgroup analyses for the estrogen dose and the progestin type in relation to changes in SHBG levels did show significant differences: COCs containing second generation progestins and/or the lower estrogen doses (20–25 µg EE) were found to have less impact on SHBG concentrations.
The current literature review and meta-analysis demonstrates that COCs decrease circulating levels of total T and free T and increase SBHG concentrations. Due to the SHBG increase, free T levels decrease twice as much as total T. The estrogen dose and progestin type of the COC do not influence the decline of total and free T, but both affect SHBG. The clinical implications of suppressed androgen levels during COC use remain to be elucidated.
PMCID: PMC3845679  PMID: 24082040
combined oral contraception; androgens; testosterone; SHBG; systematic review
24.  Differentiating Major Depressive Disorder in Youths with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder 
Journal of affective disorders  2007;102(1-3):125-130.
Youths with attention deficit hyperactivity disorders (ADHD) frequently have comorbid major depressive disorders (MDD) sharing overlapping symptoms. Our objective was to examine which depressive symptoms best discriminate MDD among youths with ADHD.
One-hundred-eleven youths with ADHD (5.2−17.8 years old) and their parents completed interviews with the K-SADS-PL and respective versions of the child or the parent Mood and Feelings Questionnaire (MFQ-C, MFQ-P). Controlling for group differences, logistic regression was used to calculate odds ratios reflecting the accuracy with which various depressive symptoms on the MFQ-C or MFQ-P discriminated MDD. Stepwise logistic regression then identified depressive symptoms that best discriminated the groups with and without MDD, using cross-validated misclassification rate as the criterion.
Symptoms that discriminated youths with MDD (n=18) from those without MDD (n=93) were 4 of 6 mood/anhedonia symptoms, all 14 depressed cognition symptoms, and only 3 of 11 physical/vegetative symptoms. Mild irritability, miserable/unhappy moods, and symptoms related to sleep, appetite, energy levels and concentration did not discriminate MDD. A stepwise logistic regression correctly classified 89% of the comorbid MDD subjects, with only age, anhedonia at school, thoughts about killing self, thoughts that bad things would happen, and talking more slowly remaining in the final model.
Results of this study may not generalize to community samples because subjects were drawn largely from a university-based outpatient psychiatric clinic.
These findings stress the importance of social withdrawal, anhedonia, depressive cognitions, suicidal thoughts, and psychomotor retardation when trying to identify MDD among ADHD youths.
PMCID: PMC2063591  PMID: 17276513
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder; depression; comorbidity
25.  Breast Cancer Risk in Relation to the Interval Between Menopause and Starting Hormone Therapy 
Although breast cancer risk is greater in users of estrogen–progestin than estrogen-only formulations of menopausal hormonal therapy, reports on their effects have been somewhat inconsistent. We investigated whether the timing of these therapies affected breast cancer incidence.
A total of 1 129 025 postmenopausal UK women provided prospective information on hormonal therapy use and other factors relevant for breast cancer risk. We used Cox regression to estimate adjusted relative risks (RRs) of breast cancer in hormonal therapy users vs never users and calculated standardized incidence rates. All statistical tests were two-sided.
During 4.05 million woman-years of follow-up, 15 759 incident breast cancers occurred, with 7107 in current users of hormonal therapy. Breast cancer incidence was increased in current users of hormonal therapy, returning to that of never users a few years after use had ceased. The relative risks for breast cancer in current users were greater if hormonal therapy was begun before or soon after menopause than after a longer gap (Pheterogeneity < .001, for both estrogen-only and estrogen-progestin formulations). Among current users of estrogen-only formulations, there was little or no increase in risk if use began 5 years or more after menopause (RR = 1.05, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.89 to 1.24), but risk was statistically significantly increased if use began before or less than 5 years after menopause (RR = 1.43, 95% CI = 1.35 to 1.51). A similar pattern was observed among current users of estrogen–progestin formulations (RR = 1.53, 95% CI = 1.38 to 1.70, and RR = 2.04, 95% CI = 1.95 to 2.14, respectively). At 50–59 years of age, annual standardized incidence rates for breast cancer were 0.30% (95% CI = 0.29% to 0.31%) among never users of hormone therapy and 0.43% (95% CI = 0.42% to 0.45%) and 0.61% (95% CI = 0.59% to 0.64%), respectively, among current users of estrogen-only and estrogen–progestin formulations who began use less than 5 years after menopause.
There was substantial heterogeneity in breast cancer risk among current users of hormonal therapy. Risks were greater among users of estrogen–progestin than estrogen-only formulations and if hormonal therapy started at around the time of menopause than later.
PMCID: PMC3039726  PMID: 21278356

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