A study by researchers at University of Helsinki, published in the BMJ, suggested that long term use of oral hormone therapy could be associated with a small increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease in postmenopausal women.
While stressing that the absolute risk is small (9-18 extra cases per 10,000 women per year) and the age at which hormone therapy is started has no bearing on future risk, they say women should be informed of the potential risk associated with prolonged use.
In response to the study’s findings, Dr James Pickett, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Society, said: “What is fascinating is how this study focuses on women – a hot topic in dementia research with twice as many women living with the condition. There are still many unanswered questions before we can fully understand risk particularly for women. But with one person developing symptoms of dementia every three minutes in the UK, this is an area our researchers are working hard on.”
He added that women should not be alarmed by the news: “This large and well-controlled study adds to a conflicting pool of evidence around the effect of hormone therapy on risk of developing dementia. In this case, some women on hormone therapy had a slight increased risk of Alzheimer’s, but this increase was so small it shouldn’t cause alarm or deter women from the their prescribed treatment – particularly those taking it over a short period of time.”