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Estrogen Linked With Lower Dementia Risk When Taken In Middle Age, Higher Risk Later In Life

Posted Feb 01 2011 6:09pm

Estrogen therapy taken around the time of menopause was associated with a lowered risk of dementia in old age, but when taken in late life was linked with an increased dementia risk, according to a study led by a physician at the San Francisco VA Medical Center and the University of California, San Francisco.

Kristine Yaffe, MD, chief of geriatric psychiatry at SFVAMC, is principal investigator of the retrospective study, which analyzed the health records of 5,504 post-menopausal women who were members of the Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program of Northern California. The study appears in the January 2011 issue of Annals of Neurology.

Yaffe, who is associate chair for clinical and translational research in psychiatry and professor of psychiatry, neurology, and epidemiology and biostatistics at UCSF, said she conceived the study in an attempt to resolve contradictory evidence on the neuroprotective effects of estrogen. “In animal models and molecular studies, it looked as if estrogen had beneficial effects on the brain, especially if administered early,” she said, “while at the same time, research in humans indicated that estrogen therapy was associated with an increased risk of dementia.”

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