Contrary to popular belief, hormone replacement therapy in women not only fails to reduce loss of memory and brain function (dementia) usually associated with Alzheimer's disease, it actually increases it.
These "surprising and significant findings" are reported in two studies from the Women's Health Initiative Memory Study, in which UC Medical Center participates, in today's issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
Estrogen replacement therapy had long been thought to improve bone, brain and cardiovascular function in postmenopausal women, explains Margery Gass, MD, professor of OB/GYN at UC and principal investigator of the Tristate regional Women's Health Initiative.
The Women's Health Initiative monitored women aged 65 and over who were using estrogen alone or placebo for five to seven years.
Although estrogen replacement did appear to protect against bone degeneration (osteoporosis), the studies showed it actually increased the stroke risk, and may also adversely affect memory and cognitive function in postmenopausal women.
The Women's Health Initiative is the largest and longest randomized, controlled study of women's health funded by the National Institutes of Health.
"These results demonstrate some of the initiative's surprising and significant findings," says Dr. Gass. "We're grateful to the 3,000 women in the Tristate region who have advanced women's health through their commitment to this study."