Estrogen Might Reduce Risk of Alzheimer’s disease, JAMA Study Says
Women who take estrogen to relieve the symptoms of menopause might also reduce their risk of developing Alzheimer's disease by 41% or more, according to a study published in today's Journal of the American Medical Association, the Chicago Tribune reports. However, researchers did not recommend women use hormone replacement therapy, which includes estrogen, to prevent Alzheimer's and said further studies are required to solidify the new findings (Kotulak, Chicago Tribune, 11/6). In the study, researchers from Johns Hopkins University and their colleagues assessed the incidence of dementia in 1,357 elderly men and 1,889 women with an average age of 74.5 years living in Cache County, Utah, between 1995 and 1997. Researchers conducted a follow-up analysis with participants again three years later (Zandi et al., JAMA, 11/6). Some of the female participants took HRT years before the study when they began menopause, some had received it more recently and some had never received it. About 72% of women in the study who took HRT received treatments of estrogen alone (Chicago Tribune, 11/6). The study found that only 26 of the 1,066 women who took HRT were diagnosed with Alzheimer's, compared with 58 of the 800 women who did not receive treatment (Hensley, Wall Street Journal, 11/6). In addition, researchers concluded that women who had taken HRT for more than 10 years had a 59% reduced risk of Alzheimer's (Chicago Tribune, 11/6).
Study researchers cautioned that their findings are "suggestive, not definitive," the New York Times reports. The study "does not rise to the level of evidence that would warrant physicians prescribing hormone therapy [to prevent Alzheimer's] or for women to start using it for this indication," Dr. John Breitner of the Veterans Affairs Puget Sound Health System, and one of the study's authors, said. The study could be flawed because, in general, women who take HRT are more educated and healthy, two factors that are already associated with a lower risk of Alzheimer's, the Times reports (Kolata, New York Times, 11/6). Susan Resnick, a researcher at NIH's National Institute on Aging who wrote an editorial accompanying the study said, "We really don't recommend at this point that women take HRT for Alzheimer's disease" (Wall Street Journal, 11/6). The findings are "certain to stir up more confusion" over HRT, according to the Tribune. In July, a government study on HRT was halted after researchers said the treatment does not reduce a woman's risk of heart disease, as previously thought, and might increase the risk of breast cancer (Chicago Tribune, 11/6). However, the findings published yesterday "might swing the balance" and make it advisable for women to take HRT, the Times reports (New York Times, 11/6).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.