Potential link between hormone replacement therapy and increased risk of dementia in later life

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By Arjun Sanganee | Thursday 29 June 2023

A large, observational Danish study has reported that menopausal women who use hormone replacement therapy (HRT) have an increased the risk of developing dementia in later life.

What did the study find?

The study used data from health registries, including detailed history of hormone treatment, and diagnosis of dementia cases in specialised memory clinics.

The results suggested both short- and long-term use of HRT might have an effect.

“This study doesn’t provide a conclusive answer on whether HRT contributes to dementia risk” – Dr Susan Kohlhaas

Inconclusive results

Speaking about the results, Susan Kohlhaas, Executive Director of Fundraising & Partnerships at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said studies like these are important. “Dementia affects about twice as many women compared with men, and the difference can’t be explained by differences in longevity alone.”

“It’s therefore important to understand what contributes to dementia risk, as this could help develop strategies for those most at risk in future.”

Dr Susan Kohlhaas, Executive Director of Research & Partnerships

Understanding whether hormone replacement therapy (HRT) plays a role in dementia risk has been a priority for the research community in recent years. Such studies, however, have so far been inconclusive and contradictory, with some suggesting that HRT reduces risk of dementia, and others suggesting it increases risk.

Kohlhaas emphasised that despite its headline results, this study “doesn’t provide a conclusive answer on whether HRT contributes to dementia risk.” This is because it did not consider other factors known to be involved, such as social isolation, smoking or dietary factors like alcohol.

Further research

“Women need to understand the implications of deciding to take HRT in terms of benefits and risks and, at the moment, as far as dementia is concerned, we’ll need to wait for more research to give clearer answers.”

In the meantime, Dr Kohlhaas advises that women should speak to a qualified healthcare professional if they would like to know more about the known benefits and risks of taking HRT to manage symptoms of the menopause.

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Arjun Sanganee