HRT and Alzheimer's, Link or No Link?

by WV Marshall

Articles about an observational study conducted by Finnish researchers indicates long-term hormone replacement therapy could be associated with Alzheimer’s disease – a conclusion that hasn’t been proven, a recognized menopause physician in the United Kingdom noted.

The study, published March 6 in BMJ, indicated that women who use HRT are more likely to develop the devastating memory-loss disease.

“They state taking HRT in the long term could be associated with Alzheimer’s,” Dr. Louise Newsom posted on the My Menopause Doctor Facebook page. “However, this is NOT PROVEN at all and other studies have shown women who take HRT have a lower risk of dementia.

Newsom noted that the Finnish study “looked at women taking older types of HRT and not women taking testosterone or newer types of HRT.”

Also, a study published in 2018 indicated that women who took HRT for 14 years had a lower risk of death from all causes, including cancer, she said.

“But the media failed to report this,” Newsom posted.

“It is so frustrating how the media continue to frighten women against HRT so resulting in many women suffering,” she said.

An article posted online by HealthDay News and reposted by United Press International quoted one of the study’s senior authors, Dr. Tomi Mikkola, as saying, “The take-home message is that, in absolute terms, nine to 18 excess diagnoses of Alzheimer’s disease per year will be detected in 10,000 women aged 70 to 80, especially in those women who had used hormone therapy for over 10 years.”

More importantly, the HealthDay post on UPI.com included a BMJ editorial commentary that accompanied the study’s findings, but was not included in several general news publications.

One author, Dr. JoAnn Manson, chief of the division of preventive medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, said the study’s findings weren’t “not a cause for alarm.”

“Overall, the research has been reassuring for younger women in early menopause who are seeking treatment for night sweats and hot flashes.** Based on the totality of evidence, there appears to be relative safety for hormone therapy when taken in early menopause,” she told HealthDay News.**

She noted that the study’s design showed an association, not a cause-and-effect relationship.

In the study, researchers examined data of nearly 85,000 postmenopausal women diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in Finland from 1999 to 2013 and compared the information with another group of nearly 85,000 women who hadn’t been diagnosed.

Since the study was observational, it could not report with certainty if other factors affected the results.