Does hormone replacement therapy benefit cognition in elderly, postmenopausal women : a true or mistaken association?
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Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) has been studied as a protective factor for cognitive decline and dementia. However, study findings have been inconsistent. Variation in study findings may be due to differences in study designs, small sample size, exposure ascertainment, diagnostic procedures, and inclusion of relevant risk and confounding factors. Moreover, there may be significant differences between the characteristics of women choosing to use HRT and those opting not to use the therapy. Using a large-scale, population-based, cohort study, we examined the relationship between HRT and cognition while paying particular attention to moderating and confounding factors. The main outcomes of interest were to assess differences in risk for cognitive impairments and dementia between HRT user and never user groups; examine HRT’s impact on age of onset of dementia; and explore the relationship between duration of HRT and cognitive decline. Logistic regression and Cox Proportional Hazards models were used to test HRT as a predictor for cognitive impairments, Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia, as well as to assess the effect of duration. Linear regression was used to consider the putative relationship between age at onset of dementia and HRT status. HRT use was found to be a statistically significant predictor for Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia. Overall, HRT use did not significantly predict for milder cognitive impairments, although significant interaction effects indicate that HRT may be protective at least for specific sub-groups of women. No durational effect was found for any of the outcomes. Neither did HRT appear to predict for age at onset of dementia. Notably, a large proportion of women in the current study reported using estrogen-only hormone supplements, and therefore generalizations regarding the findings are likely limited to estrogen-only preparations, not combination estrogen-progestin therapies. These findings must be considered within the context of the other known and potential risks and benefits that HRT may afford.
DegreeMaster of Science (M.Sc.)
DepartmentCommunity Health and Epidemiology
ProgramCommunity Health and Epidemiology
CommitteeSaucier, Deborah M.; Pahwa, Punam; Leis, Anne; Crossley, Margaret
Copyright DateSeptember 2003
hormone replacement therapy