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No long-term cognitive effects seen in younger post-menopausal women on hormone therapy

Some news affecting post-menopausal women who take hormone therapy: In a study involving 1,326 women who started conjugated equine estrogen-based hormone therapy when they were between 50 and 55 years old, the treatment was not associated with any sustained risk or benefit to brain health.

Much has been written about this topic, dating back about 10 years ago to the release of the Women’s Health Initiative Memory Study, which linked the same type of therapy to cognitive decline and dementia in older (65 years+) postmenopausal women. This study, however, involved younger women, whose cognitive function was assessed an average of 7 years after their participation in the trial was over.

“There was essentially no overall difference in cognitive function between women who had been prescribed an average of 7 years of hormone therapy compared to women who had been prescribed placebo,” the researchers report.

The research, which appears online today in JAMA Internal Medicine, may be reassuring to women who take, or are consider taking, hormone therapy in their 50s. And the findings also, as co-author Marcia Stefanick, PhD, with the Stanford Prevention Research Center, points out, fail to “support the ‘window of opportunity’ hypothesis which suggests that women closer to menopause will benefit with respect to cognitive function as they age." (Some observational studies and basic research have suggested that hormone therapy might benefit or boost cognition in women if begun at the right time.)

The work was funded primarily by the National Institute on Aging and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

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