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June 4th, 2010
02:02 PM ET

'Sex and the City' hazardous to women's health?

By Elizabeth Cohen
Senior Medical Correspondent

You may find the new “Sex and the City” movie entertaining – but don’t turn to it for medical advice.

In the movie, Samantha Jones, the eldest of the famous foursome of gals, takes hormones.

“I’m leading the way through the menopause maze,” she tells her friends. “I’ve tricked my body into thinking it’s younger…No hot flashes. No mood swings. And my sex drive is right back to where it was.”

The medical hiccup: Samantha had breast cancer, and doctors generally don’t recommend hormone therapy for breast cancer survivors, since some studies show it increases the chances of having a recurrence.

“Most doctors that I know would do everything possible to avoid use of hormone replacement therapy in a woman with a past history of breast cancer,” says Dr. Len Lichtenfeld, deputy chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society.

Some breast cancer survivors are upset about the movie.

“It drives me crazy that some woman out there might think this is OK,” says Courtney Bugler, a breast cancer survivor and executive director of the Young Survival Coalition.

Candice McDonough, a spokeswoman for New Line Cinema, which produced “Sex and the City 2,” declined to comment.

The National Cancer Institute and Susan G. Komen for the Cure have advice for breast cancer survivors about hormone replacement therapy.

With reporting by CNN's Sabriya Rice and John Bonifield


soundoff (228 Responses)
  1. Jamie

    Taking medical advice from TV or the movies is just silly. House, for instance, had a show about bats and rabies that was so completely innacurate and foolish that I haven't watched the show since. You'd think if they were trying for accuracy they could at least read a couple of pages on the CDC website. The writers should have to try the erroneous treatment they had the doctors prescribing for the show's "patient." Serve 'em right too.

    June 6, 2010 at 20:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. sarah

    Movies and television producers should make every effort to be medically correct. Fiction aside, dispensing or promoting grossly inaccurate information in a public forum is irresponsible. I waste hundreds of hours of patient care a year correcting the myths put forward by popular entertainment media. Please try to be more responsible. And no, it's NOTHING like Grey's Anatomy. Nothing at all.

    June 6, 2010 at 20:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. sarah

    FOAZ – anything that mimics estrogen hormone places breast cancer survivors at risk of recurrence of breast cancer, regardless of where it comes from. "All natural" and "herbal" are just marketing gimmicks. They are as serious, and can cause as much harm, as anything western medicine has to offer. IE someone taking copious ginko prior to surgery will bleed out as though they are on any western prescription blood thinner.

    June 6, 2010 at 20:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. melissa rayford

    taking medical advice from a movie...yeah, stupidity ought to hurt!!!

    June 6, 2010 at 21:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Neuroperson

    As a Neurologist, I will let you in on a secret. Doctors come in 2 broad varieties: 1) Research and Academic Types who think they know alot about a tiny miniscule thing, about which there is actually still much controversy outside of thier academic bubble and 2) Burnt out, stressed out, overworked clinicians doing paperwork up to thier ears who really havent had a whole lot of time to read anything new except what the drug reps show them. And to everyone else, the trend of "evidence based" medicine has been totally co-opted by the pharmaceutical-industrial complex for over a decade now. Good luck trying to find some real old fashioned honest research out there. At the average cost of 100 million for FDA approval, not a whole lot of small ticket items being "tested".

    TO THE BRILLIANT DR. GUPTA: Show me ONE large, double blind, placebo controlled trial that shows that bio-identical, non-oral hormones (i.e. real hormones given in real ways) causes cancer.

    TO THE PEOPLE: Is it boys and girls with raging hormone levels dying of prostate/breast cancer? Or is it old men and women without hormones that fall prey? Hmm.. just think about it. And start reading...

    June 6, 2010 at 22:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. AntiguanRum

    See what happenes when you read too much into a comedic movie...you end up with an article on CNN...rolling my eyes?!?!?!?!?!?

    June 6, 2010 at 22:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Geem

    Stupid, but the actual industrial practices are just as ludicrous. It was a fully realized plant. It happens all of the time in films. It's just another form of product placement. It's not paranoid either. It's just the way film works.

    June 6, 2010 at 22:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Anna

    People need to lean on their own knowledge and not on what movies show us. Cancer patients need to do their own serious research and not take advice from some movies that are meant to be for purely entertainment purposes.

    June 6, 2010 at 22:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. boxman

    It is a movie. I guess this same people that are upset about this are upset because a rich billionaire is flying around in an Iron Suit fighting crime.

    At no time did I think I should follow the advice of Samantha in that movie.

    June 6, 2010 at 23:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. dina

    This character obviously plays a very sick person, a sex addict who will have sex with ayone who can. I find this portrayal of a woman degrading, offensive and certainly upgraded for this movie. This movie completely represents a group of self involved, eogtistical women whose only thought is getting laid on the first date. I don't certainly think it is a good role jodel for any girl no matter how good the ratings are. Shame on these actresses for playing these kind of women.But the movie has no redemtion with all the stupid things that go on/It is not even good fantasy.A big stupid movie.

    June 6, 2010 at 23:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Tyyo

    There was so much ish in that movie that was upsetting (ie: their outrageous outfits in the Middle East INCLUDING heels in the sand). I know those "faux pas" are not as outrageous as conflicting medical information, however, it's a movie!

    Even I had to calm myself down watching it (for various reasons) and try to remember it's "entertainment".

    I enjoyed the movie (as I did part 1) and took a lot of great things away from it despite the many moments that caused me to question "who do that"?

    The movie was quite fun and I think that's what I'm sure the producers intended!

    June 7, 2010 at 01:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. AB

    Suzanne Somers has had no recurrence of her breast cancer and she takes hormones. Of course hers are bio-identical and not manufactured by the same companies as make the HRT found dangerous. If you google estriol and cancer you will find evidence that it is anti carcinogenic. Doctors only know what they are told. It is best to do your own research. I was told I had an incurable illness. Twice. I ignored the doctors and their drugs and cured myself. I have looked and cannot find an expiration date on me anywhere. It has now been over 30 years since my first so called incurable illness.

    June 7, 2010 at 01:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Ann Margret

    Even though it is a movie it can still contain facts.
    I have been using hormones for years and the seem to do just what is said in the movie. There are also other movies which contain valuable information on woman health. For example in the movie 'A Christmas Carol' there is a scene in which a young woman is using nitrates for a chest pain from breakfast. In the movie these vitamins help her stave off a major medical episode and in fact saved many lives over the years.

    June 7, 2010 at 05:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. SWEETIE

    R U SERIOUS, ITS A MOVIE FOR CRYING OUT OUT SITC AT THAT. I DOUBT ANYONE WOULD WITH A RIGHT MIND WOULD IN THOSE CIRCUMSTANCES WOULD MIMIC W/O CONSULTING THEIR DR. THE PERSON THEY SHOULD TURN TO FOR MEDICAL ADVISE.

    June 7, 2010 at 07:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Myra

    It's a movie not a reality show! Seriously, can we not just watch a movie for what is intended, ENTERTAINMENT, without being offended at it's exaggerated plots and scripts? I AM a breast cancer survivor and I didn't rush out and get any hormone treatments........and I had already read Somer's book on bioidentical meds, which was interesting....but didn't sway me to try it. Sex and the City was a movie....not a prescription!!!!! Get off your soap box and enjoy life's little gifts for what they are and stop trying to spoil others' little pleasures! Make yourself a Grey Goose Cosmopolitan and enjoy the movie!!!! I did!

    June 7, 2010 at 09:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. ladawn

    Just for the record, there IS such a thing as "natural" hormone replacement therapy (as opposed to synthetic or even animal) and a growing number of physicians in the health industry are learning about aging and the health benefits of replacing them for men as well as women. This is something you must check out. Here is a website that has two very informative videos where Dr Sangeeta Pati, FACOG is giving a speech to 16th Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine – Summer 2008 – Washington, DC, USA and another where she is explaining is layman’s terms the problems and benefits of seeking natural alternatives to our problems on The Wellness Hour with Randy Alvarez.
    I had a hysterectomy at age 30 and have been on HRT for many years but when my doctors over the years learned it’s problems with cancer they starting reducing it to the point of taking me off. They gave me no alternatives and I not only experienced hot flashes but began feel bad, tired, sluggish and irritable. I have had problems with bruising for several years as well but did not connect it to the estrogen I was taking. When my niece in Arizona learned about a new group of anti-aging medical doctors in her area she went there to get help with her thyroid problems that conventional medical doctors had not been able to do, and discovered they not only helped her but her other hormones as well. I began searching for help in my area. I was very lucky and I am doing this new therapy and can say, not only has my bruising stopped but my energy has improved, my cholesterol has improved, I am gaining muscle tone and I feel better than I have in years. Conventional medicine is not enough and this new age of medicine isn’t taught in medical schools …after all, they are paid for by the big pharmaceutical companies that produce the medicines that they would have us take even if they aren’t good for us. These things have to change. Be informed – check this out:
    http://www.sajune.com/videos-medical-center.html

    June 7, 2010 at 09:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. LGLK

    Yes, it's just a movie (a terrible one at that), but I believe there comes with putting something out there for millions of fans to see, a certain amount of responsibility. Because yes, there are people out there who are fans of the show and like to live vicariously through the characters. Seriously, with all the time that is spent on a screenplay, you couldn't do a little research? I have BC and am on hormone therapy which suppresses estrogen, so I'm going through menopause (at a pretty young age). I could only imagine what other BC patients and my doctor would say about this. It's irresponsible.

    June 7, 2010 at 10:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. hh

    I agree with LGLK. As for the other comments posted by other people, just because someone would only be an "idiot" to take medical advise from a Hollywood film, this news article should not be published. It obviously upset some women with breast cancer, and JUST BECAUSE YOU THINK AN 'IDIOT' WOULD TAKE THIS 'ADVICE' DOESN'T MEAN THERE AREN'T A LOT OF PEOPLE IN THIS WORLD WHO WOULD GET MISINFORMED BY IT. True, one would usually consult his or her doctor before obtaining such hormones. But, this to me sounds like a case of: * (1) A SCRIPT that needed more DOCTORING in its RESEARCH, and (2) A case of RESPONSIBLE JOURNALISM by CNN for informing its readers and any of the movie's watchers.

    June 7, 2010 at 12:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. hh

    I agree with LGLK. As for the other comments posted by other people, just because someone would only be an "idiot" to take medical advice from a Hollywood film does not mean that this news article should not have been published. It obviously upset some women with breast cancer, and JUST BECAUSE YOU THINK AN 'IDIOT' WOULD TAKE THIS 'ADVICE' DOESN'T MEAN THERE AREN'T A LOT OF PEOPLE IN THIS WORLD WHO COULD GET MISINFORMED BY IT. True, one would usually consult his or her doctor before obtaining such hormones. But, this to me sounds like a case of: (1) A SCRIPT that needed more DOCTORING in its RESEARCH, and (2) A case of RESPONSIBLE JOURNALISM by CNN for informing its readers and any of the movie's watchers.

    June 7, 2010 at 18:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. One left behind from Wyeth's Greed

    HRT is NOT safe for any woman and has been proven to INCREASE chances of Breast Cancer in all women that take the poison over two years. The additive added to HRT was to change the occurrence in Cancer in the lower region, but never reevaluated for its effects on the breast. When the WHO study came out it was proven that it did cause Breast Cancer and Wyeth hid memos stating this fact, they knew it decades ago, and sadly still sell it today.

    June 8, 2010 at 16:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. joe damico

    I believe that producers have an ethical responsibility when portraying such medical matters but this. Show hasn't been known for accuracy in my opinion. If so then I missed the part about Samantha contracting STD's. And there are plenty of these kinds of medical misrepresetations.
    I wonder if one of the many "orphan diseases" would trigger this much passion? I think not, as one orphan I see much which Holy-wood manipulated.
    Even if a woman marched into her Doc now, she would not get hormones to fix her libido. As a man once said "sometimes a cigar is just a cigar".

    June 9, 2010 at 14:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. jennifer

    this is one of the most insulting movies ever. if you do not see how wrong it is to show american women in a country where women have to cover their whole bodies then you are blind

    June 13, 2010 at 04:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. PhD_womens_health_researcher

    This is not a movie about superheroes, it is a movie/series about sexuality and fashion. Women identify with these characters and do many of the things they do.These characters' behaviors are often in pursuit of youth, sexuality, power, freedom, or happiness – so many many women (smart and stupid alike) DO mimic their behaviors, and the product placement dept. of the movie knows this – Manolo sales, do you think they have been affected by SATC? Now, as we slide the slippery slope between fashion and health, extend that to chemical peels – there have likely been many done in real life that were inspired by Sam on SATC. Now extend to transdermal "bioidentical" HRT. Now go to Suzanne Somer's website. It says right now: "my greatest source of pride is knowing this important information about bioidentical hormones and women’s health has pierced into pop culture. It means the message about the power of natural hormones is mainstream. Thank you, Michael Patrick King, Kim Cattrall, and the very sexy Samantha! You made this author extremely proud." Yes, there absolutely are breast cancer survivors who are going to take this treatment because of this movie, sometimes without even telling their oncologist. Yes, unfortunately people are more likely to read a book by a TV or porn star and actually do something other than what they are advised by an MD practicing evidence-based medicine, because of what was in that book. This is a problem of pop-culture rejection of science, a problem that has been written on in recent times, especially with regard to vaccines. People taking advice from unqualified sources and rejecting qualified sources is a real problem.

    The way science informs medicine is this: to help make a well-informed decision based on population outcomes, qualified medical practitioners need evidence based on well-designed experimental, or, when randomization is not possible, observational research. The more population-based evidence, the more informed a decision people can make. Right now there is not evidence that would inform a decision based on risks and benefits to use transdermal phytoestrogens. That is what is meant by this statement on Wikipedia, which is true: "The International Menopause Society, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada, the Endocrine Society, the North American Menopause Society (NAMS), United States Food and Drug Administration, American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, American Medical Association, American Cancer Society and the Mayo Clinic have released statements that the there is a lack of evidence [about] the benefits and risks of bioidentical hormones". So that is why we need public- and foundation-funded well-designed research, because the people doing that kind of research (like me) have no financial interest in the findings coming out one way or another; we just want to know the answer so that decisions can be made based on better evidence.

    I can tell you this much: I doubt I could get ethics board approval to randomize ER+ survivors to receive transdermal phytoestrogens versus not receive them. That fact alone – that this would be considered too much of a risk as an intervention in this population – should tell you something about how the scientific community sees a plausible biological mechanism for transdermal phytoestrogens and ER+ breast cancer recurrence.

    June 14, 2010 at 08:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. PhD_womens_health_researcher

    I should have said "Yes, unfortunately A GROWING NUMBER OF people are more likely to read a book by a TV or porn star and actually do something other than what they are advised by an MD practicing evidence-based medicine, because of what was in that book."

    Something to add: one reason for this is because your oncologist might not be telling you exactly what you want to hear... She sees – rightly – that preventing recurrence of the breast cancer is of higher importance than feeling young and sexual. This sucks, but this is where we are with the science. Deprive the body – and therefore the tumor – of estrogen to maximize survival. If the cure for the symptoms of menopause is to add estrogen, then that will give the estrogen-receptor positive tumor something to feed on again. There is no evidence that these tumors grow differently depending on the source of the hormone: endogenous estrogen (created in the human body), conjugated exogenous estrogen (created in a horse's body and conjugated; premarin), or exogenous phytoestrogen (what are being called "bioidentical" compounds created in a plant). Because something is created in a plant instead of a horse still does not make it identical to what is created in your body, and also if you have breast cancer, "bioidenticality" would not be a plus even in theory because you are safer without even your own body's estrogen – hence the use of adjuvant endocrine therapy. Remember, you have an estrogen-receptor-positive tumor that feeds off estrogen. Not sure if that tumor cares where/how that estrogen was manufactured or how it got into the body.

    June 14, 2010 at 08:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Logan Baker

    i like herbal products and anything that is natural and organic~–

    September 8, 2010 at 15:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Cold Remedies :

    the thing that i like about herbal products is that they are readily available and does not have bad side effects*":

    October 23, 2010 at 13:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Wrench Set

    i support herbal products because they are all natural and from what i know, they do not carry nasty side effects ;*"

    December 16, 2010 at 03:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Evzstwhp

    dodgers baseball hats,

    July 4, 2011 at 04:43 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.