A study by researchers at the University of Helsinki published today in the BMJ suggested long term use of oral hormone therapy could be linked with a small increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease in postmenopausal women.
The researchers stress the absolute risk is small (9-18 extra cases per 10,000 women each year) and the age at which hormone therapy is started has no bearing on future risk. But researchers argued women should be informed of the potential risk associated with prolonged use.
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.
“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 their prescribed treatment – particularly those taking it over a short period of time.”