ponded to placebo. Among depression symptoms that improved with the hormone were early morning awakening, loss of enjoyment, sadness and irritability Among symptoms that failed to improve were sexual interest and disturbed sleep.
Blood concentrations of estrogen (estradiol) prior to the study or after hormone treatment did not predict therapeutic response. This suggests that the beneficial effects of estrogen aren't mediated by correcting abnormally low levels of the hormone. Rather, Schmidt and Rubinow suggest that some women may be especially sensitive to changing hormone levels. As with disorders like PMS and post-partum depression, such hormonal changes appear to be necessary, but not sufficient, to trigger perimenopausal depression, say the researchers, who are attempting to identify the still-unknown underlying predisposing factors. Doctors often prescribe estrogen to protect perimenopausal women from osteoporosis and heart disease, but long-term use of estrogen replacement may increase a woman's risk of breast and uterine cancer. In the future, more specific-acting medications that work through estrogen receptors may be engineered to selectively enhance bone, blood lipids and brain tissue without adversely affecting breast and uterine tissue, the researchers suggest.
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Contact: Jules Asher
NIH/National Institute of Mental Health
. Estrogen promotes gender differences in brains response to stress2
. Estrogen receptor-a disruption and vasodilation in coronary arteries3
. Estrogen improves short term memory and oral reading in midlife postmenopausal women4
. Estrogen found as link between obesity and breast cancer in postmenopausal women5
. Estrogens as antioxidants reducing heart disease in younger postmenopausal women6
. Estrogen patch compared to pill minimizes cardiovascular risk factor in postmenopausal women7
. Estrogen and personality in women8
. Estrogen linked to more efficient regulation of a womans heartbeat9
. Estrogen may protect against breast cancer10
. Estrogen combined with calcium and vitamin D may prevent tooth loss11
. Estrogen found in soy stimulates human breast-cancer cells in mice