40 Years Later, What the Nurses' Health Study Taught Us About Women's Health

JoAnn E. Manson, MD, DrPH


September 22, 2016

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Hello. This is Dr JoAnn Manson, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital. I would like to bring to your attention a tremendous resource for information about women's health: a summary compendium of findings from the nationwide Nurses' Health Study on its 40th anniversary, published in the September 2016 issue of the American Journal of Public Health (AJPH). These articles are all open access and can be found at the journal website or at Medscape.

The Nurses' Health Study was started in 1976 when the nurses were ages 30-55. They have been followed for 40 years, providing valuable information on risk factors and ways to prevent the major chronic diseases in women, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, cognitive decline, reproductive disorders, stress, and everything in between. These articles also include findings from a second cohort of nurses, the Nurses' Health Study II, which included women aged 25-42 at the start of the study in 1989. We owe an enormous debt of gratitude to these two cohorts of nurses who have been so dedicated and provided such high follow-up rates and such high-quality information over several decades.

Viewers of this video may be particularly interested in findings on the risks and benefits of oral contraceptives, menopausal hormone therapy when started early in menopause, reproductive disorders including ovulatory infertility, pregnancy-induced hypertension, preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, and the relationship between diet, physical activity, body weight, and a number of chronic diseases. A specific example of some of the information that you can find in these articles is the article[1] on birth control pills, oral contraceptives, and this extensive research in the Nurses' Health Study on benefits and risks, including the slight increase in risk for heart disease in current users, which does not persist in past users of these hormones, and a slight increase in the risk for breast cancer but a reduction in ovarian and colorectal cancer.

I would like to acknowledge that I am one of the co-investigators of the Nurses' Health Study, and I've been principal investigator of the cardiovascular component for about 20 years. I hope that you find the information in these articles of interest and that it will be of value to you in your clinical practice. Thank you for your attention. This is JoAnn Manson.


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