Hormone therapy (HT), previously called hormone replacement therapy, involves administering estrogen or progesterone alone or in combination as a way to treat menopause symptoms ranging from hot flashes to osteoporosis.
Although some studies report positive effects of HT, the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) terminated a long-term study on HT in March 2004 when researchers found that hormone treatment significantly increased women's chances of contracting heart disease, breast cancer, and stroke. Another WHI study recently showed that long-term hormone treatment also increases the risk of cognitive decline and dementia.
"Many menopausal women are at a loss, trying to ease the symptoms of menopause without incurring any additional serious health conditions such as Alzheimer's or heart disease," says Roberta Diaz Brinton, PhD, of the University of Southern California Pharmaceutical Science Center . "We are working toward a greater understanding of the consequences and repercussions of long-term hormonal replacements, to assist these women in making better informed decisions about their health."
"The WHI findings were especially surprising," says Brinton, "given that retrospective and prospective observational analyses have indicated that HT can prevent general cognitive degeneration, as well as the contraction of diseases such as Alzheimer's."
One difficulty in performing HT studies is controlling for all the variables present in the participating women. Some have had hysterectomies, while o
Contact: Leah Ariniello
Society for Neuroscience