Estrogen & Dementia, No Significant Link (cont.)

Older women using estrogen-alone hormone therapy could be at a slightly greater risk of developing dementia, including Alzheimer's disease (AD), than women who do not use any menopausal hormone therapy, according to a new report by scientists with the Women's Health Initiative Memory Study (WHIMS). The scientists also found that estrogen alone did not prevent cognitive decline in these older women. These findings from WHIMS appear in the June 23/30, 2004, Journal of the American Medical Association.

"These studies further support last year's recommendations that menopausal hormone therapy should not be used to prevent cognitive decline or dementia in older postmenopausal women," stated Judith A. Salerno, MD, MS, Deputy Director of the National Institute on Aging (NIA). "Women should follow the Food and Drug Administration's recommendation that those who want to use menopausal hormone therapy to control their menopausal symptoms should use it at the lowest effective dose for the shortest time necessary."

The latest findings were reported by WHIMS Principal Investigator Sally A. Shumaker, PhD, Wake Forest University School of Medicine, and her colleagues at the 39 study sites. This research was funded by Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, which manufactures Premarin™, the conjugated equine estrogens used in this trial, and Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center. WHIMS is a substudy of the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) Hormone Trial, which is funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) at the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). The National Institute on Aging (NIA), a component of NIH, has been involved in reviewing the current findings as the lead NIH institute on age-related cognitive change and dementia.

The WHI Hormone Trial using estrogen plus progestin was stopped early in July 2002 when researchers found an increased risk of breast cancer, along with greater risks of heart disease, stroke, and blood clots, and determined that these risks outweighed the benefits of reduced risks of hip fracture and colorectal cancer. In May 2003, WHIMS investigators reported the results of the estrogen plus progestin part of their memory substudy. They found that estrogen plus progestin increased the risk of probable dementia in women 65 and older and did not preserve cognitive function. This part of WHIMS was also stopped in July 2002.