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 June 13, 2003
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Hormone Therapy Linked To Dementia
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Journal of the Ameican Medical Association

Some more bad news for women on hormone therapy.  Last summer the Women's Health Initiative study identified a link between hormone therapy and breast cancer.  Now the Women's Health Initiative Memory Study is reporting that hormone therapy may be linked to dementia. 

78-year-old Elaine Odenwald remembers to tend her flowers but other memories are more elusive. 

"The process of aging does sort of dull things.  Usually, my memories come back to me. They don't always come the first time", says Odenwald.

 That's why Elaine volunteered to take part in the Women's Health Initiative Memory Study.  Past research suggested that taking the hormones estrogen and progestin together might protect elderly women against dementia and memory loss.  But this new, comprehensive study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, says that's not so. 

"There is no reason for a women, an older woman certainly, to take combination hormone therapy. It will, in fact, increase her risk of dementia", says Dr. Sally Shumaker of Wake Forest University. 

Researchers looked at 4,500 elderly women over four years.  It showed women on the combined hormone therapy were at twice the risk for developing dementia as compared to women who took a placebo.  The effects emerged after one year.

"The risk for any individual woman is relatively small. At the same time, if you think on a national basis or public health basis, the risk is high and importnat and it's critical that women, age 65 and older, consider going off cobination therapy if they're still currently taking it."

Researchers are now looking to see if the risk for dementia associated with the hormone therapy continues even after women stop taking the pills.   If you have questions about hormone therapy and memory loss, talk with your physician.

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