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Stanford expert talks estrogen therapy and Alzheimer's

Estrogen-based hormone therapy has been a hotly debated issue for years. In 2002, the Women’s Health Initiative, the largest-ever federally sponsored study of postmenopausal women’s health, halted part of its trial examining hormone therapy. Published data showed that the combination of estrogen and progestin increased the risk for heart attacks, strokes, blood clots and breast cancer among postmenpausal women. It seemed certain to slam shut the door on hormone therapy for many women. Yet, a series of studies has softened that judgment. And now comes another.

As my colleague mentioned just yesterday, a new study from Stanford professor Natalie Rasgon, MD, PhD, and others has found that some women - specifically those who carry a gene that puts them at increased risk for developing Alzheimer’s - may benefit from an estrogen regimen. The word "may" is a huge caveat here, as the study was small and certainly not definitive.

San Francisco Chronicle writer Erin Allday teased out the research in an article yesterday. And I spoke with Rasgon earlier in the week for a 1:2:1 podcast, as I was curious about yet another possible rebound for estrogen therapy. Rasgon reiterated to me that her study is far too small to be conclusive - “it opens more questions than it answers” - but it’s intriguing nonetheless.

Previously: Hormone therapy halts accelerated aging seen in women with Alzheimer’s genetic risk factor, Hormone therapy soon after menopause onset may reduce Alzheimer’s risk and Common genetic Alzheimer’s risk factor disrupts healthy older women’s brain function, but not men’s

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