STUDY OBJECTIVES: To ascertain the determinants and experiences of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) use by menopausal women doctors. DESIGN: Postal questionnaire. SETTING: UK. PATIENTS: A randomized stratified sample of women doctors who obtained full registration between 1952 and 1976, taken from the current Principal List of the UK Medical Register. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Current and previous use of HRT; reasons for and against HRT use; menopausal status; hormonal contraceptive use; lifestyle patterns; family and personal history of disease. MAIN RESULTS: While 73.2% of 471 users had started HRT for symptom relief, 60.9% cited prevention of osteoporosis and 32.7 prevention of cardiovascular disease. Altogether 18.7% had started for preventive purposes alone. Significant predisposing factors to starting HRT were the presence and severity of menopausal symptoms, surgical menopause, past use of hormonal contraception, and a family history of osteoporosis. HRT users were also more likely to use skimmed rather than full fat milk, to try to increase their intake of fruit, vegetables, and fibre, and to undertake vigorous physical activity at least once a week. They were less likely to have had breast cancer. Long duration users were more likely than short duration users to be past users of hormonal contraception and to be using HRT for prevention of osteoporosis as well as symptom relief; they were less likely to have experienced side effects. CONCLUSIONS: The high usage of HRT by women doctors reflects the fact that many started HRT on their own initiative and with long term prevention in mind. The results may become generalisable to the wider population as information on the potential benefits of HRT is disseminated and understood. However, HRT users may differ slightly from non-users in health-related behaviour and a substantial minority may never take up HRT, at least until the benefit-risk ratio is more clearly established.
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