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Hormone therapy linked to small Alzheimer’s risk increase

Women who receive hormone replacement therapy are at slightly higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s, according to new research published in the BMJ.

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is commonly offered to help relieve symptoms of the menopause. The treatment increases the level of hormones and the course and length of treatment can vary considerably from person to person.

The researchers looked at health records from 84,739 postmenopausal women in Finland. These women were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease between 1999 and 2013. Participants were then compared against the same number of people who did not have an Alzheimer’s diagnosis.

The study shows a link between the long-term usage of oral hormone therapy and a small increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease. The researchers estimate additional risk would amount to a further 9-18 cases of Alzheimer’s per year for every 10,000 women age 70-80.

Dr David Reynolds, chief scientific officer from Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “Studies that look for patterns in medical records can be extremely useful for identifying factors linked with Alzheimer’s risk, but they can’t tell us the root cause of that link.

“While this large study suggests that women who received some forms of hormone therapy were slightly more likely to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, it doesn’t show that hormone therapy is responsible for this increased risk.

“Hormone therapy provides important benefits to many women, helping to combat the symptoms that menopause can bring. Women who require hormone therapy should not be put off by these results, and anyone concerned about the effects of this treatment should speak to their doctor.”

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Tamara Birch