Short-term estrogen use doesn’t protect against dementia, study indicates

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Although hormone therapy was once thought to help preserve cognitive function after menopause, there is mounting evidence to the contrary, including a recent report from the Kuopio Osteoporosis Risk Factor and Prevention Study.

Researchers in that project sent questionnaires to all women ages 47 to 56 who lived in the Finnish province of Kuopio in 1987. The women completed questionnaires every five years, providing information about their lifestyles, medication use, and illnesses. The researchers checked the information in the questionnaires against prescription registries and medical records up to 2009.

When they analyzed the results, they found that 227 of the 8,195 women had developed Alzheimer's disease over 20 years. They determined that the overall risk of developing dementia was similar among women who used postmenopausal estrogen and those who didn't. However, they did note a lower risk among women who reported taking estrogen for 10 years or longer. On the other hand, long-term estrogen use has been linked to an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, and breast cancer. Although the results, reported online Feb. 15, 2017, by Neurology, are only suggestive, they support current recommendations that estrogen therapy be used as briefly as possible and only to relieve menopause symptoms.