In 1996, The Million Woman Study began recruiting women to participate in a long range study tracking the risk of breast cancer associated with different types of menopausal hormone therapy.  The study branched out, and the findings were not as predictable as you might think.

In 1996, The Million Woman Study began recruiting women to participate in a long range study tracking the risk of breast cancer associated with different types of menopausal hormone therapy, but they found many participants, who had reached adulthood in the 60s had both smoked and used oral contraceptives as teens and young adults.  They also began to look at weight, as obesity was also on the rise. 

What started as a fairly narrow scope, addressing hormone therapies and issues of aging, turned into a much broader investigation into short and long term health affects of all of this, and other factors that contribute to a range of health issues that hit in mid-life and beyond.   Health issues they watched went beyond cancer, and included heart disease, stroke, dementia and other mental and neurodegenerative disorders.

The study included 1 out of every 4 women born between 1935 and 1950, and 2016 marked the 20th year of data, the first of a truly long range data point to observe.
 

What did they find?  The information is still coming in, but here are a few of the findings that you may find interesting.

  • Night shift work does NOT necessarily increase risk of breast cancer, as had been previously suggested in other studies.
  • Height is associated with a greater risk of hip fracture.  This is a consideration after rounds of chemo can affect your bone density.  If you're tall, you'll want to take steps to improve balance and be careful about falls.
  • Happiness itself does not necessarily impact mortality.  Women who reported being unhappy were NOT more likely to die from cancer or other causes then women who reported being happy most of the time.
  • Lung cancer in women who never smoked seemed to be at greater risk for tall women non-white women, and women with asthma that required treatment, although these risks are quite small compared with smokers.
  • Current HRT use is associated with increased risk of ovarian cancer, and that increased risk continues for several years after HRT is stopped.  Interestingly, 10 year use of the oral contraceptive pill reduced the risk of endometrial cancer by half.  Clearly, use of hormones should continue to be studied.
  • The risk of vascular disease (heart disease, stroke and blood clots) was no higher in women who did some physical activity 2-6 days a week, than women who exercised every day.
  • Quitting smoking, even after smoking many years, will reduce your risk of early death from lung cancer, heart attack or other lung disease.  No matter what age you are, quitting has an immediate benefit.

There's lots and lots of data being gathered by this study.  I encourage you to read more.  The site tracking this data is informative and easy to navigate, learn more here millionwomenstudy.org

  • Prevention
  • Research