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1.  Estrogens, Episodic Memory, and Alzheimer’s Disease: A Critical Update 
Seminars in reproductive medicine  2009;27(3):283-293.
Estrogen-containing hormone therapy initiated during the late postmenopause does not improve episodic memory (an important early symptom of Alzheimer’s disease), and it increases dementia risk. Cognitive consequences of exogenous estrogen exposures during midlife are less certain. Observational evidence implies that use of hormone therapy at a younger age close to the time of menopause may reduce risk of Alzheimer’s disease later in life. However, there are concerns that observational findings may be systematically biased. Partial insight on this critical issue may be gleaned from results of ongoing clinical trials involving midlife postmenpausal women (Early versus Late Intervention Trial with Estrogen; Kronos Early Estrogen Prevention Study). The effects of exogenous midlife estrogen exposures and Alzheimer risk can also be approached through better animal models, through carefully designed cohort studies, and through use of surrogate outcomes in randomized controlled trials in midlife women. Selective estrogen receptor modulators have the potential to affect cognitive outcomes and also merit additional study.
doi:10.1055/s-0029-1216281
PMCID: PMC3683552  PMID: 19401959
Alzheimer’s disease; estrogen; memory; SERM
2.  Aging, Estrogens, and Episodic Memory in Women 
Objective
To review the relation in midlife and beyond between estrogen exposures and episodic memory in women.
Background
Episodic memory performance declines with usual aging, and impairments in episodic memory often portend the development of Alzheimer's disease. In the laboratory, estradiol influences hippocampal function and animal learning. However, it is controversial whether estrogens affect memory after a woman's reproductive years.
Method
Focused literature review, including a summary of a systematic search of clinical trials of estrogens in which outcomes included an objective measure of episodic memory.
Results
The natural menopause transition is not associated with objective changes in episodic memory. Strong clinical trial evidence indicates that initiating estrogen-containing hormone therapy after about age 60 years does not benefit episodic memory. Clinical trial findings in middle-age women before age 60 are limited by smaller sample sizes and shorter treatment durations, but these also do not indicate substantial memory effects. Limited short-term evidence, however, suggests that estrogens may improve verbal memory after surgical menopause. Although hormone therapy initiation in old age increases dementia risk, observational studies raise the question of an early critical window during which midlife estrogen therapy reduces late-life Alzheimer's disease. However, almost no data address whether midlife estrogen therapy affects episodic memory in old age.
Conclusions
Episodic memory is not substantially impacted by the natural menopause transition or improved by use of estrogen-containing hormone therapy after age 60. Further research is needed to determine whether outcomes differ after surgical menopause or whether episodic memory later in life is modified by midlife estrogenic exposures.
doi:10.1097/WNN.0b013e3181a74ce7
PMCID: PMC2791907  PMID: 19996872
Alzheimer's disease; estrogens; memory
3.  Hip Fracture Incidence in Relation to Age, Menopausal Status, and Age at Menopause: Prospective Analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2009;6(11):e1000181.
Using data from the UK Million Women Study, Emily Banks and colleagues investigate the relationships between the incidence of hip fracture and a woman's age, menopausal status, and age at menopause.
Background
Bone mineral density is known to decrease rapidly after the menopause. There is limited evidence about the separate contributions of a woman's age, menopausal status and age at menopause to the incidence of hip fracture.
Methods and Findings
Over one million middle-aged women joined the UK Million Women Study in 1996–2001 providing information on their menopausal status, age at menopause, and other factors, which was updated, where possible, 3 y later. All women were registered with the UK National Health Service (NHS) and were routinely linked to information on cause-specific admissions to NHS hospitals. 561,609 women who had never used hormone replacement therapy and who provided complete information on menopausal variables (at baseline 25% were pre/perimenopausal and 75% postmenopausal) were followed up for a total of 3.4 million woman-years (an average 6.2 y per woman). During follow-up 1,676 (0.3%) were admitted to hospital with a first incident hip fracture. Among women aged 50–54 y the relative risk (RR) of hip fracture risk was significantly higher in postmenopausal than premenopausal women (adjusted RR 2.22, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.22–4.04; p = 0.009); there were too few premenopausal women aged 55 y and over for valid comparisons. Among postmenopausal women, hip fracture incidence increased steeply with age (p<0.001), with rates being about seven times higher at age 70–74 y than at 50–54 y (incidence rates of 0.82 versus 0.11 per 100 women over 5 y). Among postmenopausal women of a given age there was no significant difference in hip fracture incidence between women whose menopause was due to bilateral oophorectomy compared to a natural menopause (adjusted RR 1.20, 95% CI 0.94–1.55; p = 0.15), and age at menopause had little, if any, effect on hip fracture incidence.
Conclusions
At around the time of the menopause, hip fracture incidence is about twice as high in postmenopausal than in premenopausal women, but this effect is short lived. Among postmenopausal women, age is by far the main determinant of hip fracture incidence and, for women of a given age, their age at menopause has, at most, a weak additional effect.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Anyone can break a hip but most hip fractures occur in elderly people. As people age, their bones gradually lose minerals and become less dense, which weakens the bones and makes them more susceptible to fracture. Because women lose bone density faster than men as they age and because women constitute the majority of the elderly, three-quarters of hip fractures occur in women. Hip fractures can cause long-term health problems and premature death. Thus, although surgical repair of a broken hip usually only requires a hospital stay of about a week, a quarter of elderly people who were living independently before their fracture have to stay in a nursing home for at least a year after their injury and a fifth of elderly people who break a hip die within the year. Most hip fractures are caused by falls. Regular exercise to improve strength and balance combined with review of medicines (to reduce side effects and interactions), regular eye examinations, and the removal of fall hazards from the home can help to prevent hip fractures in elderly people.
Why Was This Study Done?
Bone density decreases very rapidly in women immediately after menopause—the time when menstruation permanently stops—and then continues to decrease more slowly with age. Most women have their menopause in their early 50s but menopause can occur in younger women. Early menopause is thought to be a risk factor for osteoporosis (thinning of the bones) and fractures later in life but little is known about how menopause influences hip fracture risk as women age. In this prospective study (a type of study in which a group of people is followed for several years to see whether they develop a particular condition), the researchers investigate the incidence of hip fractures in relation to age, menopausal status, and age at menopause among the participants of the Million Women Study. This study, which recruited 1.3 million women aged 50–64 years who attended UK breast cancer screening clinics between 1996 and 2001, has been investigating how reproductive and lifestyle factors affect women's health.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
At enrollment and three years later, the study participants provided information about their menopausal status and other health and lifestyle factors likely to affect their fracture risk. From these data, the researchers identified more than half a million women who had never used hormone replacement therapy (which reduces fracture risk) and who had given complete information about their menopausal status. They then looked for statistical associations between the occurrence of a first hip fracture in these women over the next few years and their age, menopausal status, and age at menopause. Among women aged 50–54 years, postmenopausal women were twice as likely to have a hip fracture as premenopausal women. Among postmenopausal women, the incidence of hip fractures increased steeply with age and was seven times higher in 70–74-year olds than in 50–54-year olds. Women who had their menopause before age 45 had a slightly increased risk of hip fracture but any effect of age at menopause on the risk of hip fracture was small compared to the effect of age itself, and the slightly increased risk may have been due to other factors that could not be fully accounted for in the analysis.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that around the time of menopause, although hip fractures are rare, the risk of a fracture in postmenopausal women is twice that in premenopausal women. The findings also show that among postmenopausal women, age is the major determinant of hip fracture risk and that for women of a given age, their age at menopause has little effect on hip fracture risk. Women attending breast cancer screening clinics and completing questionnaires about their health may not be representative of the general population. Furthermore, these findings rely on women self-reporting their menopausal status accurately. Nevertheless, the results of this study suggest that clinicians advising women about hip fracture prevention should probably base their advice on the woman's age and on age-related factors such as frailty rather than on factors related to menopause. Clinicians can also now reassure elderly women who had an early menopause that their risk of hip fracture is unlikely to be higher than that of similar women who had a later menopause.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000181.
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons has detailed information about hip fractures
The US National Institute of Arthritis and Muscoloskeletal and Skin Diseases has an interactive feature called “Check up on your bones and provides detailed information about osteoporosis, including advice on fall prevention
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a fact sheet about hip fractures among older adults
MedlinePlus has links to resources about hip fracture, osteoporosis, and menopause (in English and Spanish)
More information on the Million Women Study is available
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000181
PMCID: PMC2766835  PMID: 19901981
4.  Summary of the NIA-sponsored Conference on Depressive Symptoms and Cognitive Complaints in the Menopausal Transition 
Menopause (New York, N.Y.)  2010;17(4):815-822.
Summary
This NIA-sponsored workshop was aimed at understanding the impact of the menopausal transition on mood symptoms and cognitive disorders during the menopausal transition and identifying research priorities for further investigation. Longitudinal studies provide insights into the frequency of these problems in representative samples of midlife women. The majority of women do not experience serious depressive symptoms during the transition, but a subgroup of women is at increased risk. Slight changes in memory function and processing speed are evident during the transition, and physiological factors associated with hot flashes may contribute to memory problems. Clinical trial evidence indicates that estradiol therapy can be effective in treating perimenopausal depression. There is some limited evidence of a cognitive benefit with estrogen alone therapy in younger postmenopausal women, and stronger evidence that certain forms of combination hormone therapy produce modest deficits in verbal memory in younger and older women. Identifying a cognitively neutral or beneficial combination therapy for the treatment of menopausal symptoms in naturally menopausal women is an important goal for future research. Pharmacological challenge studies bridge the basic science and clinical literatures to provide insights into the extent to which changes in endogenous and exogenous hormones and other neurotransmitter systems contribute to cognitive and mood problems. Routine evaluation of depressive symptoms in perimenopausal women is warranted by the literature. Quick and valid screening tools for assessing depression in the clinic are available on-line and free of charge.
doi:10.1097/gme.0b013e3181d763d2
PMCID: PMC2901893  PMID: 20616668
Menopause; Cognition; Mood; Perimenopause; Depression
5.  Hormone therapy and cognitive function 
Human Reproduction Update  2009;15(6):667-681.
BACKGROUND
Clinical trials yield discrepant information about the impact of hormone therapy on verbal memory and executive function. This issue is clinically relevant because declines in verbal memory are the earliest predictor of Alzheimer's disease and declines in executive function are central to some theories of normal, age-related changes in cognition.
METHODS
We conducted a systematic review of randomized clinical trials of hormone therapy (i.e. oral, transdermal, i.m.) and verbal memory, distinguishing studies in younger (i.e. ≤65 years of age; n = 9) versus older (i.e. >65 years; n = 7) women and studies involving estrogen alone versus estrogen plus progestogen. Out of 32 placebo-controlled trials, 17 were included (13 had no verbal memory measures and 2 involved cholinergic manipulations). We also provide a narrative review of 25 studies of executive function (two trials), since there are insufficient clinical trial data for systematic review.
RESULTS
There is some evidence for a beneficial effect of estrogen alone on verbal memory in younger naturally post-menopausal women and more consistent evidence from small-n studies of surgically post-menopausal women. There is stronger evidence of a detrimental effect of conjugated equine estrogen plus medroxyprogesterone acetate on verbal memory in younger and older post-menopausal women. Observational studies and pharmacological models of menopause provide initial evidence of improvements in executive function with hormone therapy.
CONCLUSIONS
Future studies should include measures of executive function and should address pressing clinical questions; including what formulation of combination hormone therapy is cognitively neutral/beneficial, yet effective in treating hot flashes in the early post-menopause.
doi:10.1093/humupd/dmp022
PMCID: PMC2759330  PMID: 19468050
menopause; hormone therapy; cognition; estrogen; memory
6.  Traditional Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs and Postmenopausal Hormone Therapy: A Drug–Drug Interaction? 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(5):e157.
Background
Suppression of prostacyclin (PGI2) is implicated in the cardiovascular hazard from inhibitors of cyclooxygenase (COX)-2. Furthermore, estrogen confers atheroprotection via COX-2–dependent PGI2 in mice, raising the possibility that COX inhibitors may undermine the cardioprotection, suggested by observational studies, of endogenous or exogenous estrogens.
Methods and Findings
To identify an interaction between hormone therapy (HT) and COX inhibition, we measured a priori the association between concomitant nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), excluding aspirin, in peri- and postmenopausal women on HT and the incidence of myocardial infarction (MI) in a population-based epidemiological study. The odds ratio (OR) of MI in 1,673 individuals and 7,005 controls was increased from 0.66 (95% confidence interval [CI] 0.50–0.88) when taking HT in the absence of traditional (t)NSAIDs to 1.50 (95% CI 0.85–2.64) when taking the combination of HT and tNSAIDs, resulting in a significant (p < 0.002) interaction. The OR when taking aspirin at doses of 150 mg/d or more was 1.41 (95% CI 0.47–4.22). However, a similar interaction was not observed with other commonly used drugs, including lower doses of aspirin, which target preferentially COX-1.
Conclusions
Whether estrogens confer cardioprotection remains controversial. Such a benefit was observed only in perimenopausal women in the only large randomized trial designed to address this issue. Should such a benefit exist, these results raise the possibility that COX inhibitors may undermine the cardioprotective effects of HT.
It is controversial whether estrogens confer cardioprotection. This study suggests that even should such a benefit exist, COX inhibitors may undermine cardioprotective effects of hormone therapy.
Editors' Summary
Background.
There is currently a great deal of uncertainty regarding the effect of postmenopausal hormone therapy on heart disease in women. Premenopausal women are much less likely to experience heart attacks and strokes than men, a difference that does not exist between postmenopausal women and men. One mechanism that might explain these observations relates to the effect of estrogen, which is thought to have a protective effect on the heart. Hormone replacement therapy (HT) consisting of replacement estrogen, and sometimes progesterone as well, is often taken by women experiencing symptoms of menopause. Evidence from observational studies and the Womens' Health Initiative (WHI) trial has suggested that HT protects against heart disease in perimenopausal women. However, researchers have suggested that any beneficial effect of hormone replacement therapy on the heart might be counteracted by the effects of certain types of painkillers also being taken by women involved in the studies. These painkillers, nonsteroidal anti inflammatory drugs ( NSAIDs), prevent production of a molecule called prostacyclin. Prostacyclin plays a role in preventing blood clotting and is therefore thought to be important in protecting the heart. Estrogen, however, acts to increase production of prostacyclin, and it is therefore theoretically possible that hormone replacement therapy does have a beneficial effect on heart health, but which is counteracted by the negative effects of NSAIDs.
Why Was This Study Done?
In this study, the researchers wanted to find out whether there was any evidence for an interaction between NSAID use, hormone replacement therapy, and heart disease. Such understanding in turn might help to identify more clearly whether hormone replacement therapy protects against heart disease in specific subgroups of postmenopausal women.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
This study was carried out using information from the UK's General Practice Research Database, which is the largest computer database of anonymous medical records from primary care anywhere in the world. It contains information entered by UK general practitioners on their patients' drug prescriptions, diagnoses, referrals to hospital, and other data. The researchers here searched for all individuals from the database who were aged between 50 and 84 years on 1 January 1997, and then followed them up through the database for four years, or until the individual died, reached 85 years of age, or was diagnosed with a heart attack or cancer. From this search, the researchers found 1,673 women who had heart attacks or who died from coronary heart disease; these were considered “cases.” Then, these 1,673 women were matched against 20,000 “control” women of similar age. Information was pulled out for each case or control on their use of hormone replacement therapy, NSAIDs (covering 21 different drugs, but most commonly diclofenac, ibuprofen, and naproxen), and various risk factors for heart disease. The researchers then compared use of hormone replacement therapy and NSAIDs between the cases and controls, while making statistical adjustments for other risk factors (such as diabetes and smoking, for example).
  The researchers found that current use of hormone replacement therapy was associated with a lower risk of heart attack than non-use. The odds ratio (chance of a heart attack among HT users compared to the chance among non-users of HT) was 0.78. However, when looking at women who used NSAIDs at the same time as hormone replacement therapy, the researchers found no suggestion of a reduction in risk of heart attack: the odds ratio for the chance of heart attack among this group of women, as compared to nonusers of both NSAIDs and hormone replacement therapy, was 1.50.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that hormone replacement therapy and NSAIDs might interact, with NSAIDs acting against a role for hormone replacement therapy in preventing heart attacks. At face value, these results are in conflict with the findings of one large trial, the WHI trial, which failed to find a benefit of HT in preventing heart attacks. However, a recent analysis of WHI suggests cardioprotective effects of HT in women close to the time of the menopause and this coincides with the younger age of women in the observational studies such as the present one rather than in the WHI overall. Observational research studies, such as the present one, are often difficult to interpret because the groups being compared are not necessarily equivalent. It's possible that women who take hormone replacement therapy, or NSAIDs, are in some way different from women who do not, which will bias the findings. Determination of the clinical implications of these findings would most appropriately be resolved in future trials, designed to address the question of interest.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0040157.
Resources from the US National Institutes of Health on menopausal hormone therapy, including links to information about the Women's Health Initiative trials, information about managing menopausal symptoms, and more
Resources from the US National Institutes of Health (MedlinePlus) about heart disease in women
Information from NHS Direct, the UK National Health Service, about hormone replacement therapy
The UK General Practice Research Database is the database utilized in this article
Wikipedia entry on nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) (note: Wikipedia is an internet encyclopedia anyone can edit)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0040157
PMCID: PMC1872041  PMID: 17518513
7.  Hormone therapy, dementia, and cognition: the Women's Health Initiative ten years on 
Principle findings on dementia from the Women's Health Initiative Memory Study (WHIMS) showed that conjugated equine estrogens plus medroxyprogesterone acetate (CEE/MPA) increase dementia risk in women aged 65 years and above, but not risk of mild cognitive impairment. The dementia finding was unexpected, given consistent observational evidence that associates estrogen-containing hormone therapy use with reduced risk of Alzheimer's disease. It remains controversial whether hormone use by younger postmenopausal women near the time of menopause reduces dementia risk or whether WHIMS findings should be generalized to younger women. Given the challenges of conducting a primary prevention trial to address that question, it is helpful to consider the impact of hormone therapy on cognitive test performance, particularly verbal memory, for its own sake and as a proxy for dementia risk. The WHI Study of Cognitive Aging (WHISCA) showed that CEE/MPA worsened verbal memory, whereas CEE alone had no influence on cognition. These findings have been replicated in several randomized clinical trials. The apparent negative effect of CEE/MPA on verbal memory does not appear to be age-dependent. Additional investigations are needed to understand the impact of other hormonally active compounds on dementia and cognitive outcomes.
doi:10.3109/13697137.2012.660613
PMCID: PMC3667708  PMID: 22612612
Alzheimer's disease; cognition; dementia; estrogen; hormone therapy; menopause; memory; progestogen; review; selective estrogen receptor modulator; women's health initiative
8.  Promotional Tone in Reviews of Menopausal Hormone Therapy After the Women's Health Initiative: An Analysis of Published Articles 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(3):e1000425.
Adriane Fugh-Berman and colleagues analyzed a selection of published opinion pieces on hormone therapy and show that there may be a connection between receiving industry funding for speaking, consulting, or research and the tone of such opinion pieces.
Background
Even after the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) found that the risks of menopausal hormone therapy (hormone therapy) outweighed benefit for asymptomatic women, about half of gynecologists in the United States continued to believe that hormones benefited women's health. The pharmaceutical industry has supported publication of articles in medical journals for marketing purposes. It is unknown whether author relationships with industry affect promotional tone in articles on hormone therapy. The goal of this study was to determine whether promotional tone could be identified in narrative review articles regarding menopausal hormone therapy and whether articles identified as promotional were more likely to have been authored by those with conflicts of interest with manufacturers of menopausal hormone therapy.
Methods and Findings
We analyzed tone in opinion pieces on hormone therapy published in the four years after the estrogen-progestin arm of the WHI was stopped. First, we identified the ten authors with four or more MEDLINE-indexed reviews, editorials, comments, or letters on hormone replacement therapy or menopausal hormone therapy published between July 2002 and June 2006. Next, we conducted an additional search using the names of these authors to identify other relevant articles. Finally, after author names and affiliations were removed, 50 articles were evaluated by three readers for scientific accuracy and for tone. Scientific accuracy was assessed based on whether or not the findings of the WHI were accurately reported using two criteria: (1) Acknowledgment or lack of denial of the risk of breast cancer diagnosis associated with hormone therapy, and (2) acknowledgment that hormone therapy did not benefit cardiovascular disease endpoints. Determination of promotional tone was based on the assessment by each reader of whether the article appeared to promote hormone therapy. Analysis of inter-rater consistency found moderate agreement for scientific accuracy (κ = 0.57) and substantial agreement for promotional tone (κ = 0.65). After discussion, readers found 86% of the articles to be scientifically accurate and 64% to be promotional in tone. Themes that were common in articles considered promotional included attacks on the methodology of the WHI, arguments that clinical trial results should not guide treatment for individuals, and arguments that observational studies are as good as or better than randomized clinical trials for guiding clinical decisions. The promotional articles we identified also implied that the risks associated with hormone therapy have been exaggerated and that the benefits of hormone therapy have been or will be proven. Of the ten authors studied, eight were found to have declared payment for speaking or consulting on behalf of menopausal hormone manufacturers or for research support (seven of these eight were speakers or consultants). Thirty of 32 articles (90%) evaluated as promoting hormone therapy were authored by those with potential financial conflicts of interest, compared to 11 of 18 articles (61%) by those without such conflicts (p = 0.0025). Articles promoting the use of menopausal hormone therapy were 2.41 times (95% confidence interval 1.49–4.93) as likely to have been authored by authors with conflicts of interest as by authors without conflicts of interest. In articles from three authors with conflicts of interest some of the same text was repeated word-for-word in different articles.
Conclusion
There may be a connection between receiving industry funding for speaking, consulting, or research and the publication of promotional opinion pieces on menopausal hormone therapy.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Over the past three decades, menopausal hormones have been heavily promoted for preventing disease in women. However, the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) study—which enrolled more than 26,000 women in the US and which was published in 2004—found that estrogen-progestin and estrogen-only formulations (often prescribed to women around the age of menopause) increased the risk of stroke, deep vein thrombosis, dementia, and incontinence. Furthermore, this study found that the estrogen-progestin therapy increased rates of breast cancer. In fact, the estrogen-progestin arm of the WHI study was stopped in 2002 due to harmful findings, and the estrogen-only arm was stopped in 2004, also because of harmful findings. In addition, the study also found that neither therapy reduced cardiovascular risk or markedly benefited health-related quality of life measures.
Despite these results, two years after the results of WHI study were published, a survey of over 700 practicing gynecologists—the specialists who prescribe the majority of menopausal hormone therapies—in the US found that almost half did not find the findings of the WHI study convincing and that 48% disagreed with the decision to stop the trial early. Furthermore, follow-up surveys found similar results.
Why Was This Study Done?
It is unclear why gynecologists and other physicians continue to prescribe menopausal hormone therapies despite the results of the WHI. Some academics argue that published industry-funded reviews and commentaries may be designed to convey specific, but subtle, marketing messages and several academic analyses have used internal industry documents disclosed in litigation cases. So this study was conducted to investigate whether hormone therapy–promoting tone could be identified in narrative review articles and if so, whether these articles were more likely to have been authored by people who had accepted funding from hormone manufacturers.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers conducted a comprehensive literature search that identified 340 relevant articles published between July 2002 and June 2006—the four years following the cessation of the estrogen-progestin arm of the women's health initiative study. Ten authors had published four to six articles, 47 authored two or three articles, and 371 authored one article each. The researchers focused on authors who had published four or more articles in the four-year period under study and, after author names and affiliations were removed, 50 articles were evaluated by three readers for scientific accuracy and for tone. After individually analyzing a batch of articles, the readers met to provide their initial assessments, to discuss them, and to reach consensus on tone and scientific accuracy. Then after the papers were evaluated, each author was identified and the researchers searched for authors' potential financial conflicts of interest, defined as publicly disclosed information that the authors had received payment for research, speaking, or consulting on behalf of a manufacturer of menopausal hormone therapy.
Common themes in the 50 articles included arguments that clinical trial results should not guide treatment for individuals and suggestions that the risks associated with hormone therapy have been exaggerated and that the benefits of hormone therapy have been or will be proven. Furthermore, of the ten authors studied, eight were found to have received payment for research, speaking or consulting on behalf of menopause hormone manufacturers, and 30 of 32 articles evaluated as promoting hormone therapy were authored by those with potential financial conflicts of interest. Articles promoting the use of menopausal hormone therapy were more than twice as likely to have been written by authors with conflicts of interest as by authors without conflicts of interest. Furthermore, Three authors who were identified as having financial conflicts of interest were authors on articles where sections of their previously published articles were repeated word-for-word without citation.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The findings of this study suggest that there may be a link between receiving industry funding for speaking, consulting, or research and the publication of apparently promotional opinion pieces on menopausal hormone therapy. Furthermore, such publications may encourage physicians to continue prescribing these therapies to women of menopausal age. Therefore, physicians and other health care providers should interpret the content of review articles with caution. In addition, medical journals should follow the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts, which require that all authors submit signed statements of their participation in authorship and full disclosure of any conflicts of interest.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000425.
The US National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more information on the Womens Health Initiative
The US National Institutes of Health provide more information about the effects of menopausal hormone replacement therapy
The Office of Women's Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provides information on menopausal hormone therapy
The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts presents Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts published in biomedical journals
The National Womens Health Network, a consumer advocacy group that takes no industry money, has factsheets and articles about menopausal hormone therapy
PharmedOut, a Georgetown University Medical Center project, has many resources on pharmaceutical marketing practices
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000425
PMCID: PMC3058057  PMID: 21423581
9.  Can Biomarkers Identify Women at Increased Stroke Risk? The Women's Health Initiative Hormone Trials 
PLoS Clinical Trials  2007;2(6):e28.
Objective:
The Women's Health Initiative hormone trials identified a 44% increase in ischemic stroke risk with combination estrogen plus progestin and a 39% increase with estrogen alone. We undertook a case-control biomarker study to elucidate underlying mechanisms, and to potentially identify women who would be at lower or higher risk for stroke with postmenopausal hormone therapy (HT).
Design:
The hormone trials were randomized, double-blind, and placebo controlled.
Setting:
The Women's Health Initiative trials were conducted at 40 clinical centers in the United States.
Participants:
The trials enrolled 27,347 postmenopausal women, aged 50–79 y.
Interventions:
We randomized 16,608 women with intact uterus to conjugated estrogens 0.625 mg with medroxyprogesterone acetate 2.5 mg daily or placebo, and 10,739 women with prior hysterectomy to conjugated estrogens 0.625 mg daily or placebo.
Outcome Measures:
Stroke was ascertained during 5.6 y of follow-up in the estrogen plus progestin trial and 6.8 y of follow-up in the estrogen alone trial.
Results:
No baseline clinical characteristics, including gene polymorphisms, identified women for whom the stroke risk from HT was higher. Paradoxically, women with higher baseline levels of some stroke-associated biomarkers had a lower risk of stroke when assigned to estrogen plus progestin compared to placebo. For example, those with higher IL-6 were not at increased stroke risk when assigned to estrogen plus progestin (odds ratio 1.28) but were when assigned to placebo (odds ratio 3.47; p for difference = 0.02). Similar findings occurred for high baseline PAP, leukocyte count, and D-dimer. However, only an interaction of D-dimer during follow-up interaction with HT and stroke was marginally significant (p = 0.03).
Conclusions:
Biomarkers did not identify women at higher stroke risk with postmenopausal HT. Some biomarkers appeared to identify women at lower stroke risk with estrogen plus progestin, but these findings may be due to chance.
Editorial Commentary
Background: The Women's Health Initiative hormone trials originally set out to evaluate whether postmenopausal hormone therapy (HT, estrogen in the case of women who had had a hysterectomy, and estrogen plus progestin for women who had not had a hysterectomy) reduced the risk of heart attacks and strokes, as compared to placebo. The trials were stopped early, and the investigators found that both estrogen alone, as well as estrogen plus progestin increased the risk of stroke amongst women participating in the trials. As part of a secondary analysis of data from these trials, the investigators aimed to explore possible associations between various biological markers (such as variants in particular genes, and levels of particular lipids, proteins, and other markers in blood), and the risk of a woman experiencing a stroke in the trials. Specifically, they wanted to evaluate whether there was any evidence for particular markers being associated with the risk of a stroke; and then whether that risk was modified by whether a woman took HT in the trials.
What the trial shows: In this study, the researchers collected early cases of ischemic stroke in the trials (combining cases among women taking estrogen with those for women taking both estrogen and progestin), and matched these to control individuals, or women participating in the trials who did not experience a stroke. Two hundred five women who experienced a stroke were compared to 878 control individuals. The markers analyzed included those for which there was already some evidence for an association with stroke. Several clinical characteristics and some biomarkers, as measured at the start of the trial, but none of the gene variants, were linked with later risk of stroke. However, none of these clinical characteristics or gene variants specifically identified women who were at greater risk of experiencing a stroke within the HT arms of the trial. High levels of two biomarkers, IL-6 and PAP, did seem to identify women who were at lower risk of experiencing a stroke within the HT arms of the trial. This finding is interesting, because high levels of these markers had previously been suggested as being associated with a higher risk of stroke. Levels of several biomarkers changed during the trial, but for only one biomarker, D-dimer, did the change (an increase in levels) seem to predict higher risk of stroke amongst women receiving HT.
Strengths and limitations: A particular strength of this study includes the nesting of a case-control study within the Women's Health Initiative trials, in which HT or placebo was randomly assigned. This design minimizes the chance that individuals taking HT differ in their stroke risk from individuals taking placebo. However, the power of this study to detect anything other than large associations is limited; together with the limitation of multiple statistical testing, the findings here must be interpreted as hypotheses for further study and not definitive conclusions.
Contribution to the evidence: This study adds data relating to possible predictive risk markers for stroke among users of HT. The hypotheses raised here remain to be tested in further studies.
doi:10.1371/journal.pctr.0020028
PMCID: PMC1891725  PMID: 17571161
10.  Oophorectomy, menopause, estrogen treatment, and cognitive aging: clinical evidence for a window of opportunity 
Brain research  2010;1379:188-198.
The neuroprotective effects of estrogen have been demonstrated consistently in cellular and animal studies but the evidence in women remains conflicted. We explored the window of opportunity hypothesis in relation to cognitive aging and dementia. In particular, we reviewed existing literature, reanalyzed some of our data, and combined results graphically. Current evidence suggests that estrogen may have beneficial, neutral, or detrimental effects on the brain depending on age at the time of treatment, type of menopause (natural versus medically or surgically induced), or stage of menopause. The comparison of women who underwent bilateral oophorectomy with referent women provided evidence for a sizeable neuroprotective effect of estrogen before age 50 years. Several case-control studies and cohort studies also showed neuroprotective effects in women who received estrogen treatment (ET) in the early postmenopausal stage (most commonly at ages 50–60 years). The majority of women in those observational studies had undergone natural menopause and were treated for the relief of menopausal symptoms. However, recent clinical trials by the Women’s Health Initiative showed that women who initiated ET alone or in combination with a progestin in the late postmenopausal stage (ages 65–79 years) experienced an increased risk of dementia and cognitive decline regardless of the type of menopause. The current conflicting data can be explained by the window of opportunity hypothesis suggesting that the neuroprotective effects of estrogen depend on age at the time of administration, type of menopause, and stage of menopause. Therefore, women who underwent bilateral oophorectomy before the onset of menopause or women who experienced premature or early natural menopause should be considered for hormonal treatment until approximately age 51 years.
doi:10.1016/j.brainres.2010.10.031
PMCID: PMC3046246  PMID: 20965156
Oophorectomy; Menopause; Estrogen; Dementia; Cognitive impairment; Window of opportunity hypothesis
11.  Frontiers proposal. National Institute on Aging “bench to bedside: estrogen as a case study” 
Age  2009;31(3):199-210.
On 28–29 September 2004, the National Institute on Aging (NIA) convened scientists for a workshop on the aging female brain focused on translating into clinical practice discoveries concerning estrogens and progestogens. Workshop objectives were to examine effects of estrogen and progestogen on brain and cognitive function in relation to aging, to examine consistencies and apparent discrepancies between Women’s Health Initiative Memory Study findings and other research on cognitive function, to determine whether additional hormone interventions could be developed in this area, and to offer advice on design of clinical trials for other interventions that might ameliorate cognitive aging. Following the workshop, participants joined by other interested scientists organized into regional work groups to continue the dialogue begun in Bethesda and to propose recommendations for NIA. The resulting recommendations, referred to as the “Frontiers Proposal for Estrogen and Cognitive Aging”, acknowledge the persistence of critical gaps in our understanding of how decline in ovarian steroid secretion during reproductive aging and use of ovarian steroid hormone therapy affect normal brain function and risk for late-life neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease. There is a pressing need for preclinical, human, and integrated studies on the relationship between the menopausal transition and midlife exposures to estrogens, progestogens and related compounds, and risks for age-associated cognitive disorders. Research is also needed on better predictors of adverse cognitive outcomes, valid biomarkers for risks associated with hormone therapy use, enhanced tools for monitoring brain function and disease progression, and novel forms of therapy for improving long-term cognitive outcomes.
doi:10.1007/s11357-009-9087-2
PMCID: PMC2734241  PMID: 19277902
Aging; Alzheimer’s disease; Cognition; Dementia; Estrogen; Menopause; Progestogen
12.  The Critical Window Hypothesis of Hormone Therapy and Cognition: A Scientific Update on Clinical Studies 
Menopause (New York, N.Y.)  2013;20(6):695-709.
Objective
The critical window hypothesis of hormone therapy (HT) and cognitive function states that the effects of HT depend on the timing of initiation with respect to age and/or the menopausal transition and that optimal effects are evident with early initiation. This article reviews the clinical studies that bear on this hypothesis.
Methods
Recognizing that the typical pattern of HT use is early HT initiation, the review describes findings from observational studies of ever use of HT and observational studies that looked specifically at timing of HT on AD and cognitive test performance. Randomized trials of HT and verbal memory are discussed, and neuroimaging studies bearing on the hypothesis are reviewed.
Results
Observational data suggest that HT reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) generally. Three of three observational studies that specifically examined timing of initiation in relation to AD risk each provide support for the window, whereas three of five observational studies of HT timing and cognitive test performance do. Randomized clinical trials of estrogen therapy in younger women find support for the hypothesis. Conjugated equine estrogen/medroxyprogesterone acetate (CEE/MPA) increases risks regardless of timing. Little is known about the cognitive effects of other combination HT formulations.
Conclusion
A definitive trial to test the critical window hypothesis is not feasible. Evidence drawn from other sources provides initial support for the hypothesis. Although these findings are relevant to women who use HT to treat vasomotor symptoms, HT is currently not indicated for the treatment of cognitive complaints or dementia prevention.
doi:10.1097/GME.0b013e3182960cf8
PMCID: PMC3780981  PMID: 23715379
Estrogen; cognition; dementia; menopause; memory; neuroimaging
13.  Vascular Effects of Estrogenic Menopausal Hormone Therapy 
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is more common in men and postmenopausal women (Post-MW) than premenopausal women (Pre-MW). Despite recent advances in preventive measures, the incidence of CVD in women has shown a rise that matched the increase in the Post-MW population. The increased incidence of CVD in Post-MW has been related to the decline in estrogen levels, and hence suggested vascular benefits of endogenous estrogen. Experimental studies have identified estrogen receptor ERα, ERβ and a novel estrogen binding membrane protein GPR30 (GPER) in blood vessels of humans and experimental animals. The interaction of estrogen with vascular ERs mediates both genomic and non-genomic effects. Estrogen promotes endothelium-dependent relaxation by increasing nitric oxide, prostacyclin, and hyperpolarizing factor. Estrogen also inhibits the mechanisms of vascular smooth muscle (VSM) contraction including [Ca2+]i, protein kinase C and Rho-kinase. Additional effects of estrogen on the vascular cytoskeleton, extracellular matrix, lipid profile and the vascular inflammatory response have been reported. In addition to the experimental evidence in animal models and vascular cells, initial observational studies in women using menopausal hormonal therapy (MHT) have suggested that estrogen may protect against CVD. However, randomized clinical trials (RCTs) such as the Heart and Estrogen/progestin Replacement Study (HERS) and the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI), which examined the effects of conjugated equine estrogens (CEE) in older women with established CVD (HERS) or without overt CVD (WHI), failed to demonstrate protective vascular effects of estrogen treatment. Despite the initial set-back from the results of MHT RCTs, growing evidence now supports the ‘timing hypothesis’, which suggests that MHT could increase the risk of CVD if started late after menopause, but may produce beneficial cardiovascular effects in younger women during the perimenopausal period. The choice of an appropriate MHT dose, route of administration, and estrogen/progestin combination could maximize the vascular benefits of MHT and minimize other adverse effects, especially if given within a reasonably short time after menopause to women that seek MHT for the relief of menopausal symptoms.
PMCID: PMC3227781  PMID: 21864249
sex hormones; progesterone; testosterone; phytoestrogens; estrogen receptor; endothelium; vascular smooth muscle; hypertension
14.  Prevalence, Distribution, and Impact of Mild Cognitive Impairment in Latin America, China, and India: A 10/66 Population-Based Study 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(2):e1001170.
A set of cross-sectional surveys carried out in Cuba, Dominican Republic, Peru, Mexico, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, China, and India reveal the prevalence and between-country variation in mild cognitive impairment at a population level.
Background
Rapid demographic ageing is a growing public health issue in many low- and middle-income countries (LAMICs). Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is a construct frequently used to define groups of people who may be at risk of developing dementia, crucial for targeting preventative interventions. However, little is known about the prevalence or impact of MCI in LAMIC settings.
Methods and Findings
Data were analysed from cross-sectional surveys established by the 10/66 Dementia Research Group and carried out in Cuba, Dominican Republic, Peru, Mexico, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, China, and India on 15,376 individuals aged 65+ without dementia. Standardised assessments of mental and physical health, and cognitive function were carried out including informant interviews. An algorithm was developed to define Mayo Clinic amnestic MCI (aMCI). Disability (12-item World Health Organization disability assessment schedule [WHODAS]) and informant-reported neuropsychiatric symptoms (neuropsychiatric inventory [NPI-Q]) were measured. After adjustment, aMCI was associated with disability, anxiety, apathy, and irritability (but not depression); between-country heterogeneity in these associations was only significant for disability. The crude prevalence of aMCI ranged from 0.8% in China to 4.3% in India. Country differences changed little (range 0.6%–4.6%) after standardization for age, gender, and education level. In pooled estimates, aMCI was modestly associated with male gender and fewer assets but was not associated with age or education. There was no significant between-country variation in these demographic associations.
Conclusions
An algorithm-derived diagnosis of aMCI showed few sociodemographic associations but was consistently associated with higher disability and neuropsychiatric symptoms in addition to showing substantial variation in prevalence across LAMIC populations. Longitudinal data are needed to confirm findings—in particular, to investigate the predictive validity of aMCI in these settings and risk/protective factors for progression to dementia; however, the large number affected has important implications in these rapidly ageing settings.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Currently, more than 35 million people worldwide have dementia, a group of brain disorders characterized by an irreversible decline in memory, problem solving, communication, and other “cognitive” functions. Dementia, the commonest form of which is Alzheimer's disease, mainly affects older people and, because more people than ever are living to a ripe old age, experts estimate that, by 2050, more than 115 million people will have dementia. At present, there is no cure for dementia although drugs can be used to manage some of the symptoms. Risk factors for dementia include physical inactivity, infrequent participation in mentally or socially stimulating activities, and common vascular risk factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and smoking. In addition, some studies have reported that mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is associated with an increased risk of dementia. MCI can be seen as an intermediate state between normal cognitive aging (becoming increasingly forgetful) and dementia although many people with MCI never develop dementia, and some types of MCI can be static or self-limiting. Individuals with MCI have cognitive problems that are more severe than those normally seen in people of a similar age but they have no other symptoms of dementia and are able to look after themselves. The best studied form of MCI—amnestic MCI (aMCI)—is characterized by memory problems such as misplacing things and forgetting appointments.
Why Was This Study Done?
Much of the expected increase in dementia will occur in low and middle income countries (LAMICs) because these countries have rapidly aging populations. Given that aMCI is frequently used to define groups of people who may be at risk of developing dementia, it would be useful to know what proportion of community-dwelling older adults in LAMICs have aMCI (the prevalence of aMCI). Such information might help governments plan their future health care and social support needs. In this cross-sectional, population-based study, the researchers estimate the prevalence of aMCI in eight LAMICs using data collected by the 10/66 Dementia Research Group. They also investigate the association of aMCI with sociodemographic factors (for example, age, gender, and education), disability, and neuropsychiatric symptoms such as anxiety, apathy, irritability, and depression. A cross-sectional study collects data on a population at a single time point; the 10/66 Dementia Research Group is building an evidence base to inform the development and implementation of policies for improving the health and social welfare of older people in LAMICs, particularly people with dementia.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
In cross-sectional surveys carried out in six Latin American LAMICS, China, and India, more than 15,000 elderly individuals without dementia completed standardized assessments of their mental and physical health and their cognitive function. Interviews with relatives and carers provided further details about the participant's cognitive decline and about neuropsychiatric symptoms. The researchers developed an algorithm (set of formulae) that used the data collected in these surveys to diagnose aMCI in the study participants. Finally, they used statistical methods to analyze the prevalence, distribution, and impact of aMCI in the eight LAMICs. The researchers report that aMCI was associated with disability, anxiety, apathy, and irritability but not with depression and that the prevalence of aMCI ranged from 0.8% in China to 4.3% in India. Other analyses show that, considered across all eight countries, aMCI was modestly associated with being male (men had a slightly higher prevalence of aMCI than women) and with having fewer assets but was not associated with age or education.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that aMCI, as diagnosed using the algorithm developed by the researchers, is consistently associated with higher disability and with neuropsychiatric symptoms in the LAMICs studied but not with most sociodemographic factors. Because prevalidated and standardized measurements were applied consistently in all the countries and a common algorithm was used to define aMCI, these findings also suggest that the prevalence of aMCI varies markedly among LAMIC populations and is similar to or slightly lower than the prevalence most often reported for European and North American populations. Although longitudinal studies are now needed to investigate the extent to which aMCI can be used as risk marker for further cognitive decline and dementia in these settings, the large absolute numbers of older people with aMCI in LAMICs revealed here potentially has important implications for health care and social service planning in these rapidly aging and populous regions of the world.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001170.
Alzheimer's Disease International is the international federation of Alzheimer associations around the world; it provides links to individual associations, information about dementia, and links to three World Alzheimer Reports; information about the 10/66 Dementia Research Group is also available on this web site
The Alzheimer's Society provides information for patients and carers about dementia, including information on MCI and personal stories about living with dementia
The Alzheimer's Association also provides information for patients and carers about dementia and about MCI, and personal stories about dementia
A BBC radio program that includes an interview with a man with MCI is available
MedlinePlus provides links to further resources about MCI and dementia (in English and Spanish)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001170
PMCID: PMC3274506  PMID: 22346736
15.  Postmenopausal hormone therapy and regional brain volumes 
Neurology  2009;72(2):135-142.
Objectives:
To determine whether menopausal hormone therapy (HT) affects regional brain volumes, including hippocampal and frontal regions.
Methods:
Brain MRI scans were obtained in a subset of 1,403 women aged 71–89 years who participated in the Women’s Health Initiative Memory Study (WHIMS). WHIMS was an ancillary study to the Women’s Health Initiative, which consisted of two randomized, placebo-controlled trials: 0.625 mg conjugated equine estrogens (CEE) with or without 2.5 mg medroxyprogesterone acetate (MPA) in one daily tablet. Scans were performed, on average, 3.0 years post-trial for the CEE + MPA trial and 1.4 years post-trial for the CEE-Alone trial; average on-trial follow-up intervals were 4.0 years for CEE + MPA and 5.6 years for CEE-Alone. Total brain, ventricular, hippocampal, and frontal lobe volumes, adjusted for age, clinic site, estimated intracranial volume, and dementia risk factors, were the main outcome variables.
Results:
Compared with placebo, covariate-adjusted mean frontal lobe volume was 2.37 cm3 lower among women assigned to HT (p = 0.004), mean hippocampal volume was slightly (0.10 cm3) lower (p = 0.05), and differences in total brain volume approached significance (p = 0.07). Results were similar for CEE + MPA and CEE-Alone. HT-associated reductions in hippocampal volumes were greatest in women with the lowest baseline Modified Mini-Mental State Examination scores (scores <90).
Conclusions:
Conjugated equine estrogens with or without MPA are associated with greater brain atrophy among women aged 65 years and older; however, the adverse effects are most evident in women experiencing cognitive deficits before initiating hormone therapy.
GLOSSARY
= modified Mini-Mental State Examination;
= anterior commissure–posterior commissure;
= body mass index;
= conjugated equine estrogens;
= gray matter;
= medroxyprogesterone acetate;
= Women’s Health Initiative;
= Women’s Health Initiative Memory Study;
= white matter.
doi:10.1212/01.wnl.0000339037.76336.cf
PMCID: PMC2677493  PMID: 19139364
16.  Impact of Cyclooxygenase Inhibitors in the Women's Health Initiative Hormone Trials: Secondary Analysis of a Randomized Trial 
PLoS Clinical Trials  2006;1(5):e26.
Objectives:
We evaluated the hypothesis that cyclooxygenase (COX) inhibitor use might have counteracted a beneficial effect of postmenopausal hormone therapy, and account for the absence of cardioprotection in the Women's Health Initiative hormone trials. Estrogen increases COX expression, and inhibitors of COX such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents appear to increase coronary risk, raising the possibility of a clinically important interaction in the trials.
Design:
The hormone trials were randomized, double-blind, and placebo-controlled. Use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs was assessed at baseline and at years 1, 3, and 6.
Setting:
The Women's Health Initiative hormone trials were conducted at 40 clinical sites in the United States.
Participants:
The trials enrolled 27,347 postmenopausal women, aged 50–79 y.
Interventions:
We randomized 16,608 women with intact uterus to conjugated estrogens 0.625 mg with medroxyprogesterone acetate 2.5 mg daily or to placebo, and 10,739 women with prior hysterectomy to conjugated estrogens 0.625 mg daily or placebo.
Outcome Measures:
Myocardial infarction, coronary death, and coronary revascularization were ascertained during 5.6 y of follow-up in the estrogen plus progestin trial and 6.8 y of follow-up in the estrogen alone trial.
Results:
Hazard ratios with 95% confidence intervals were calculated from Cox proportional hazard models stratified by COX inhibitor use. The hazard ratio for myocardial infarction/coronary death with estrogen plus progestin was 1.13 (95% confidence interval 0.68–1.89) among non-users of COX inhibitors, and 1.35 (95% confidence interval 0.86–2.10) among continuous users. The hazard ratio with estrogen alone was 0.92 (95% confidence interval 0.57–1.48) among non-users of COX inhibitors, and 1.08 (95% confidence interval 0.69–1.70) among continuous users. In a second analytic approach, hazard ratios were calculated from Cox models that included hormone trial assignment as well as a time-dependent covariate for medication use, and an interaction term. No significant interaction was identified.
Conclusions:
Use of COX inhibitors did not significantly affect the Women's Health Initiative hormone trial results.
Editorial Commentary
Background: As part of a set of studies known as the Women's Health Initiative trials, investigators aimed to find out whether providing postmenopausal hormone therapy (estrogen in the case of women who had had a hysterectomy, and estrogen plus progestin for women who had not had a hysterectomy) reduced cardiovascular risk as compared to placebo. Earlier observational studies had suggested this might be the case. The trials found that postmenopausal hormone therapy did not reduce cardiovascular risk in the groups studied. However, there was a concern that medication use outside the trial with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and specifically the type of NSAID known as COX-2 inhibitors, could have affected the findings. This concern arose because it is known that COX-2 inhibition lowers levels of prostacyclin, a molecule thought to be beneficial to cardiovascular health, whereas estrogen increases prostacyclin levels. Evidence from randomized trials and observational studies has also shown that patients treated with some COX-2 inhibitors are at increased risk of heart attacks and strokes; the cardiovascular safety of other NSAIDs is also the focus of great attention. Therefore, the authors of this paper aimed to do a statistical exploration of the data from the Women's Health Initiative hormone trials, to find out whether NSAID use by participants in the trials could have affected the trials' main findings.
What this trial shows: In this reanalysis of the original data from the trials, the investigators found that the effects of hormone therapy on cardiovascular outcomes were similar among users and non-users of NSAIDs, confirming that use of these drugs did not significantly affect the results from the Women's Health Initiative hormone trials.
Strengths and limitations: The original hormone trials were large, appropriately randomized studies that enrolled a diverse cohort of participants. Therefore, a large number of cardiovascular events occurred in the groups being compared, allowing this subsequent analysis to be done. One limitation is that use of COX-2 inhibitors in the trial was low; therefore, the investigators were not able to specifically test whether COX-2 inhibitor use (as opposed to NSAID use generally) might have affected their findings.
Contribution to the evidence: The investigators did not set out specifically to evaluate the cardiovascular safety of particular medications in this study. Rather, they wanted to see if these NSAIDs could have modified the effects of the hormone therapy. The secondary analysis done here shows that the main findings from the Women's Health Initiative hormone trials were not significantly affected by use of NSAIDs outside the trial.
doi:10.1371/journal.pctr.0010026
PMCID: PMC1584256  PMID: 17016543
17.  Association between Cutaneous Nevi and Breast Cancer in the Nurses' Health Study: A Prospective Cohort Study 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(6):e1001659.
Using data from the Nurses' Health Study, Jiali Han and colleagues examine the association between number of cutaneous nevi and the risk for breast cancer.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Cutaneous nevi are suggested to be hormone-related. We hypothesized that the number of cutaneous nevi might be a phenotypic marker of plasma hormone levels and predict subsequent breast cancer risk.
Methods and Findings
We followed 74,523 female nurses for 24 y (1986–2010) in the Nurses' Health Study and estimate the relative risk of breast cancer according to the number of cutaneous nevi. We adjusted for the known breast cancer risk factors in the models. During follow-up, a total of 5,483 invasive breast cancer cases were diagnosed. Compared to women with no nevi, women with more cutaneous nevi had higher risks of breast cancer (multivariable-adjusted hazard ratio, 1.04, 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.98–1.10 for 1–5 nevi; 1.15, 95% CI, 1.00–1.31 for 6–14 nevi, and 1.35, 95% CI, 1.04–1.74 for 15 or more nevi; p for continuous trend = 0.003). Over 24 y of follow-up, the absolute risk of developing breast cancer increased from 8.48% for women without cutaneous nevi to 8.82% (95% CI, 8.31%–9.33%) for women with 1–5 nevi, 9.75% (95% CI, 8.48%–11.11%) for women with 6–14 nevi, and 11.4% (95% CI, 8.82%–14.76%) for women with 15 or more nevi. The number of cutaneous nevi was associated with increased risk of breast cancer only among estrogen receptor (ER)–positive tumors (multivariable-adjusted hazard ratio per five nevi, 1.09, 95% CI, 1.02–1.16 for ER+/progesterone receptor [PR]–positive tumors; 1.08, 95% CI, 0.94–1.24 for ER+/PR− tumors; and 0.99, 95% CI, 0.86–1.15 for ER−/PR− tumors). Additionally, we tested plasma hormone levels according to the number of cutaneous nevi among a subgroup of postmenopausal women without postmenopausal hormone use (n = 611). Postmenopausal women with six or more nevi had a 45.5% higher level of free estradiol and a 47.4% higher level of free testosterone compared to those with no nevi (p for trend = 0.001 for both). Among a subgroup of 362 breast cancer cases and 611 matched controls with plasma hormone measurements, the multivariable-adjusted odds ratio for every five nevi attenuated from 1.25 (95% CI, 0.89–1.74) to 1.16 (95% CI, 0.83–1.64) after adjusting for plasma hormone levels. Key limitations in this study are that cutaneous nevi were self-counted in our cohort and that the study was conducted in white individuals, and thus the findings do not necessarily apply to other populations.
Conclusions
Our results suggest that the number of cutaneous nevi may reflect plasma hormone levels and predict breast cancer risk independently of previously known factors.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
One woman in eight will develop breast cancer during her lifetime. Breast cancer begins when cells in the breast acquire genetic changes that allow them to divide uncontrollably (which leads to the formation of a lump in the breast) and to move around the body (metastasize). The treatment of breast cancer, which is diagnosed using mammography (a breast X-ray) or manual breast examination and biopsy, usually involves surgery to remove the lump, or the whole breast (mastectomy) if the cancer has started to metastasize. After surgery, women often receive chemotherapy or radiotherapy to kill any remaining cancer cells and may also be given drugs that block the action of estrogen and progesterone, female sex hormones that stimulate the growth of some breast cancer cells. Globally, half a million women die from breast cancer each year. However, in developed countries, nearly 90% of women affected by breast cancer are still alive five years after diagnosis.
Why Was This Study Done?
Several sex hormone–related factors affect breast cancer risk, including at what age a woman has her first child (pregnancy alters sex hormone levels) and her age at menopause, when estrogen levels normally drop. Moreover, postmenopausal women with high circulating levels of estrogen and testosterone (a male sex hormone) have an increased breast cancer risk. Interestingly, moles (nevi)—dark skin blemishes that are a risk factor for the development of melanoma, a type of skin cancer—often darken or enlarge during pregnancy. Might the number of nevi be a marker of hormone levels, and could nevi counts therefore be used to predict an individual's risk of breast cancer? In this prospective cohort study, the researchers look for an association between number of nevi and breast cancer risk among participants in the US Nurses' Health Study (NHS). A prospective cohort study enrolls a group of people, determines their baseline characteristics, and follows them over time to see which characteristics are associated with the development of certain diseases. The NHS, which enrolled 121,700 female nurses aged 30–55 years in 1976, is studying risk factors for cancer and other chronic diseases in women.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
In 1986, nearly 75,000 NHS participants (all of whom were white) reported how many nevi they had on their left arm. Over the next 24 years, 5,483 invasive breast cancers were diagnosed in these women. Compared to women with no nevi, women with increasing numbers of nevi had a higher risk of breast cancer after adjustment for known breast cancer risk factors. Specifically, among women with 1–5 nevi, the hazard ratio (HR) for breast cancer was 1.04, whereas among women with 15 or more nevi the HR was 1.35. An HR compares how often a particular event occurs in two groups with different characteristics; an HR greater than one indicates that a specific characteristic is associated with an increased risk of the event. Over 24 years of follow-up, the absolute risk of developing breast cancer was 8.48% in women with no nevi but 11.4% for women with 15 or more nevi. Notably, postmenopausal women with six or more nevi had higher blood levels of estrogen and testosterone than women with no nevi. Finally, in a subgroup analysis, the association between number of nevi and breast cancer risk disappeared after adjustment for hormone levels.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings support the hypothesis that the number of nevi reflects sex hormone levels in women and may predict breast cancer risk. Notably, they show that the association between breast cancer risk and nevus number was independent of known risk factors for breast cancer, and that the risk of breast cancer increased with the number of nevi in a dose-dependent manner. These findings also suggest that a hormonal mechanism underlies the association between nevus number and breast cancer risk. Because this study involved only white participants, these findings may not apply to non-white women. Moreover, the use of self-reported data on nevus numbers may affect the accuracy of these findings. Finally, because this study is observational, these findings are insufficient to support any changes in clinical recommendations for breast cancer screening or diagnosis. Nevertheless, these data and those in an independent PLOS Medicine Research Article by Kvaskoff et al. support the need for further investigation of the association between nevi and breast cancer risk and of the mechanisms underlying this relationship.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001659.
An independent PLOS Medicine Research Article by Kvaskoff et al. also investigates the relationship between nevi and breast cancer risk
The US National Cancer Institute provides comprehensive information about cancer (in English and Spanish), including detailed information for patients and professionals about breast cancer; it also has a fact sheet on moles
Cancer Research UK, a not-for profit organization, provides information about cancer, including detailed information on breast cancer
The UK National Health Service Choices website has information and personal stories about breast cancer; the not-for profit organization Healthtalkonline also provides personal stories about dealing with breast cancer
More information about the Nurses' Health Study is available
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001659
PMCID: PMC4051600  PMID: 24915186
18.  Differences in verbal memory performance in postmenopausal women receiving hormone therapy: 17β-estradiol versus conjugated equine estrogens 
Objective
Much controversy exists and many questions remain unanswered about the effects of hormone therapy (HT) on cognition in postmenopausal women. There is growing evidence suggesting that HT compounds containing conjugated equine estrogen (CEE) have negative effects on cognition whereas 17β-estradiol (17β-E) either has positive or neutral effects. The present study sought to further examine this issue in a sample of postmenopausal women with risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease (AD).
Design
Cross-sectional neuropsychological evaluation, as part of a larger longitudinal study.
Setting
Academic research clinic.
Participants
68 healthy postmenopausal women (aged 49–68) receiving either 17β-E or CEE for at least one year and at increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease (AD).
Measurements
Neuropsychological test battery of the cognitive domains of attention/working memory/processing speed, verbal memory, visual memory, and executive functioning.
Results
Women receiving 17β-E showed significantly better verbal memory performance compared to women receiving CEE, regardless of age, IQ, years of education, risk factors for AD (including APOE-ε4 carriership), duration of endogenous and exogenous estrogen exposure, concurrent progesterone use, or natural or surgical menopause status.
Conclusions
Verbal memory performance was better in menopausal women receiving 17β-E compared to CEE in a sample population of women with risk factors for AD. Genetic risk for AD as well as other confounds did not affect this finding. The results suggest that differential effect of the type of HT on verbal memory, with 17β-E being a preferential compound. Further evaluation of HT types, regimens and duration of use on cognitive performance in postmenopausal women in a controlled longitudinal design is warranted.
doi:10.1097/JGP.0b013e3181ff678a
PMCID: PMC3164805  PMID: 21873835
memory; cognition; menopause; postmenopausal women; hormone therapy; 17-Beta estradiol; conjugated equine estrogens; risk for Alzheimer’s disease
19.  A cross-sectional study of hormone treatment and hippocampal volume in postmenopausal women: Evidence for a limited window of opportunity 
Neuropsychology  2010;24(1):68-76.
The influence of hormone treatment on brain and cognition in postmenopausal women has been a controversial topic. Contradictory patterns of results have prompted speculation that a critical period, or a limited window of opportunity, exists for hormone treatment to protect against cognitive and neural decline in older women. Consistent with this hypothesis, studies in both humans and rodents indicate that the latency between the time of menopause and the initiation of hormone treatment is an important factor in determining whether hormone treatment will prevent or exacerbate cognitive impairment. In this cross-sectional study of 102 postmenopausal women, we examined whether hippocampal, amygdala, or caudate nucleus volumes and spatial memory performance were related to the interval between menopause and the initiation of hormone treatment. Consistent with a critical period hypothesis, we found that shorter intervals between menopause and the initiation of hormone treatment, as determined by self-report, were associated with larger hippocampal volumes compared with longer intervals between menopause and treatment initiation. Initiation of hormone treatment at the time of menopause was also associated with larger hippocampal volumes when compared to peers who had never used hormone treatment. Furthermore, these effects were independent from potentially confounding factors such as age, years of education, the duration of hormone treatment, current or past use of hormone therapy, the type of therapy, and the age at menopause. Larger hippocampal volumes in women who initiated hormone treatment at the time of menopause failed to translate to improved spatial memory performance. There was no relationship between the timing of hormone initiation, spatial memory performance, and amygdala or caudate nucleus volume. Our results provide support for the idea that there is a limited window of opportunity at the time of menopause for hormone treatment to influence hippocampal volume, yet the degree to which these effects translate to improved memory performance is uncertain.
doi:10.1037/a0017292
PMCID: PMC2843433  PMID: 20063947
20.  Risk Prediction for Breast, Endometrial, and Ovarian Cancer in White Women Aged 50 y or Older: Derivation and Validation from Population-Based Cohort Studies 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(7):e1001492.
Ruth Pfeiffer and colleagues describe models to calculate absolute risks for breast, endometrial, and ovarian cancers for white, non-Hispanic women over 50 years old using easily obtainable risk factors.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Breast, endometrial, and ovarian cancers share some hormonal and epidemiologic risk factors. While several models predict absolute risk of breast cancer, there are few models for ovarian cancer in the general population, and none for endometrial cancer.
Methods and Findings
Using data on white, non-Hispanic women aged 50+ y from two large population-based cohorts (the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovarian Cancer Screening Trial [PLCO] and the National Institutes of Health–AARP Diet and Health Study [NIH-AARP]), we estimated relative and attributable risks and combined them with age-specific US-population incidence and competing mortality rates. All models included parity. The breast cancer model additionally included estrogen and progestin menopausal hormone therapy (MHT) use, other MHT use, age at first live birth, menopausal status, age at menopause, family history of breast or ovarian cancer, benign breast disease/biopsies, alcohol consumption, and body mass index (BMI); the endometrial model included menopausal status, age at menopause, BMI, smoking, oral contraceptive use, MHT use, and an interaction term between BMI and MHT use; the ovarian model included oral contraceptive use, MHT use, and family history or breast or ovarian cancer. In independent validation data (Nurses' Health Study cohort) the breast and ovarian cancer models were well calibrated; expected to observed cancer ratios were 1.00 (95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.96–1.04) for breast cancer and 1.08 (95% CI: 0.97–1.19) for ovarian cancer. The number of endometrial cancers was significantly overestimated, expected/observed = 1.20 (95% CI: 1.11–1.29). The areas under the receiver operating characteristic curves (AUCs; discriminatory power) were 0.58 (95% CI: 0.57–0.59), 0.59 (95% CI: 0.56–0.63), and 0.68 (95% CI: 0.66–0.70) for the breast, ovarian, and endometrial models, respectively.
Conclusions
These models predict absolute risks for breast, endometrial, and ovarian cancers from easily obtainable risk factors and may assist in clinical decision-making. Limitations are the modest discriminatory ability of the breast and ovarian models and that these models may not generalize to women of other races.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
In 2008, just three types of cancer accounted for 10% of global cancer-related deaths. That year, about 460,000 women died from breast cancer (the most frequently diagnosed cancer among women and the fifth most common cause of cancer-related death). Another 140,000 women died from ovarian cancer, and 74,000 died from endometrial (womb) cancer (the 14th and 20th most common causes of cancer-related death, respectively). Although these three cancers originate in different tissues, they nevertheless share many risk factors. For example, current age, age at menarche (first period), and parity (the number of children a woman has had) are all strongly associated with breast, ovarian, and endometrial cancer risk. Because these cancers share many hormonal and epidemiological risk factors, a woman with a high breast cancer risk is also likely to have an above-average risk of developing ovarian or endometrial cancer.
Why Was This Study Done?
Several statistical models (for example, the Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Tool) have been developed that estimate a woman's absolute risk (probability) of developing breast cancer over the next few years or over her lifetime. Absolute risk prediction models are useful in the design of cancer prevention trials and can also help women make informed decisions about cancer prevention and treatment options. For example, a woman at high risk of breast cancer might decide to take tamoxifen for breast cancer prevention, but ideally she needs to know her absolute endometrial cancer risk before doing so because tamoxifen increases the risk of this cancer. Similarly, knowledge of her ovarian cancer risk might influence a woman's decision regarding prophylactic removal of her ovaries to reduce her breast cancer risk. There are few absolute risk prediction models for ovarian cancer, and none for endometrial cancer, so here the researchers develop models to predict the risk of these cancers and of breast cancer.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Absolute risk prediction models are constructed by combining estimates for risk factors from cohorts with population-based incidence rates from cancer registries. Models are validated in an independent cohort by testing their ability to identify people with the disease in an independent cohort and their ability to predict the observed numbers of incident cases. The researchers used data on white, non-Hispanic women aged 50 years or older that were collected during two large prospective US cohort studies of cancer screening and of diet and health, and US cancer incidence and mortality rates provided by the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program to build their models. The models all included parity as a risk factor, as well as other factors. The model for endometrial cancer, for example, also included menopausal status, age at menopause, body mass index (an indicator of the amount of body fat), oral contraceptive use, menopausal hormone therapy use, and an interaction term between menopausal hormone therapy use and body mass index. Individual women's risk for endometrial cancer calculated using this model ranged from 1.22% to 17.8% over the next 20 years depending on their exposure to various risk factors. Validation of the models using data from the US Nurses' Health Study indicated that the endometrial cancer model overestimated the risk of endometrial cancer but that the breast and ovarian cancer models were well calibrated—the predicted and observed risks for these cancers in the validation cohort agreed closely. Finally, the discriminatory power of the models (a measure of how well a model separates people who have a disease from people who do not have the disease) was modest for the breast and ovarian cancer models but somewhat better for the endometrial cancer model.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that breast, ovarian, and endometrial cancer can all be predicted using information on known risk factors for these cancers that is easily obtainable. Because these models were constructed and validated using data from white, non-Hispanic women aged 50 years or older, they may not accurately predict absolute risk for these cancers for women of other races or ethnicities. Moreover, the modest discriminatory power of the breast and ovarian cancer models means they cannot be used to decide which women should be routinely screened for these cancers. Importantly, however, these well-calibrated models should provide realistic information about an individual's risk of developing breast, ovarian, or endometrial cancer that can be used in clinical decision-making and that may assist in the identification of potential participants for research studies.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001492.
This study is further discussed in a PLOS Medicine Perspective by Lars Holmberg and Andrew Vickers
The US National Cancer Institute provides comprehensive information about cancer (in English and Spanish), including detailed information about breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and endometrial cancer;
Information on the Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Tool, the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program, and on the prospective cohort study of screening and the diet and health study that provided the data used to build the models is also available on the NCI site
Cancer Research UK, a not-for-profit organization, provides information about cancer, including detailed information on breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and endometrial cancer
The UK National Health Service Choices website has information and personal stories about breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and endometrial cancer; the not-for-profit organization Healthtalkonline also provides personal stories about dealing with breast cancer and ovarian cancer
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001492
PMCID: PMC3728034  PMID: 23935463
21.  Hormonal treatment, mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer's disease 
A plethora of in vitro and in vivo studies have supported the neuroprotective role of estrogens and their impact on the neurotransmitter systems implicated in cognition. Recent hormonal replacement therapy trials in non-demented post-menopausal women suggest a temporary positive effect (notably on verbal memory), and four meta-analyses converge to suggest a possible protective effect in relation to Alzheimer’s disease (reducing risk by 29 to 44%). However, data from the only large randomized controlled trial published to date, the Women’s Health Initiative Memory Study, did not confirm these observations and have even suggested an increase in dementia risk for women using hormonal replacement therapy compared to controls. Apart from methodological differences, one key short-coming of this trial has probably been the focus on late-onset (postmenopausal) hormonal changes, i.e. at a time when the neurodegenerative process has already begun and without taking into account individual lifetime exposure to hormone variability. Multifactorial models based on an exhaustive view of all hormonal events throughout the reproductive life (rather than on a specific exposure to a given steroid) together with other risk factors (notably genetic risk factors related to estrogen receptor polymorphisms) should be explored to clarify the role of hormonal risk factors, or protective factors for cognitive dysfunction and dementia.
doi:10.1017/S1041610207006485
PMCID: PMC2662345  PMID: 18072983
Administration, Cutaneous; Aged; Alzheimer Disease; diagnosis; drug therapy; prevention & control; Cognition Disorders; diagnosis; drug therapy; prevention & control; Estradiol; administration & dosage; therapeutic use; Estrogen Replacement Therapy; methods; Estrogens; administration & dosage; therapeutic use; Estrogens, Conjugated (USP); therapeutic use; Female; Humans; Memory Disorders; diagnosis; drug therapy; prevention & control; Middle Aged; Neuroprotective Agents; administration & dosage; therapeutic use; Progestins; therapeutic use; Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic; statistics & numerical data; Receptors, Estrogen; genetics; Research Design; standards; trends; Severity of Illness Index; Treatment Outcome; Cognition; equine estrogens; transdermal estradiol; estrogen receptor; lifetime hormonal status; observation study; randomized controlled trial
22.  A Randomised, Blinded, Placebo-Controlled Trial in Dementia Patients Continuing or Stopping Neuroleptics (The DART-AD Trial)  
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(4):e76.
Background
There have been increasing concerns regarding the safety and efficacy of neuroleptics in people with dementia, but there are very few long-term trials to inform clinical practice. The aim of this study was to determine the impact of long-term treatment with neuroleptic agents upon global cognitive decline and neuropsychiatric symptoms in patients with Alzheimer disease.
Methods and Findings
Design: Randomised, blinded, placebo-controlled parallel two-group treatment discontinuation trial.
Setting: Oxfordshire, Newcastle and Gateshead, London and Edinburgh, United Kingdom.
Participants: Patients currently prescribed the neuroleptics thioridazine, chlorpromazine, haloperidol trifluoperazine or risperidone for behavioural or psychiatric disturbance in dementia for at least 3 mo.
Interventions: Continue neuroleptic treatment for 12 mo or switch to an identical placebo.
Outcome measures: Primary outcome was total Severe Impairment Battery (SIB) score. Neuropsychiatric symptoms were evaluated with the Neuropsychiatric Inventory (NPI).
Results: 165 patients were randomised (83 to continue treatment and 82 to placebo, i.e., discontinue treatment), of whom 128 (78%) commenced treatment (64 continue/64 placebo). Of those, 26 were lost to follow-up (13 per arm), resulting in 51 patients per arm analysed for the primary outcome. There was no significant difference between the continue treatment and placebo groups in the estimated mean change in SIB scores between baseline and 6 mo; estimated mean difference in deterioration (favouring placebo) −0.4 (95% confidence interval [CI] −6.4 to 5.5), adjusted for baseline value (p = 0.9). For neuropsychiatric symptoms, there was no significant difference between the continue treatment and placebo groups (n = 56 and 53, respectively) in the estimated mean change in NPI scores between baseline and 6 mo; estimated mean difference in deterioration (favouring continue treatment) −2.4 (95% CI −8.2 to 3.5), adjusted for baseline value (p = 0.4). Both results became more pronounced at 12 mo. There was some evidence to suggest that those patients with initial NPI ≥ 15 benefited on neuropsychiatric symptoms from continuing treatment.
Conclusions
For most patients with AD, withdrawal of neuroleptics had no overall detrimental effect on functional and cognitive status. Neuroleptics may have some value in the maintenance treatment of more severe neuropsychiatric symptoms, but this benefit must be weighed against the side effects of therapy.
Trial registration: Cochrane Central Registry of Controlled Trials/National Research Register (#ISRCTN33368770).
In a randomized trial of patients with dementia, Clive Ballard and colleagues show that withdrawal of neuroleptics had no overall detrimental effect, and by some measures improved, functional and cognitive status.
Editors' Summary
Background
The number of people with dementia (currently 25 million worldwide) is expected to increase by 5 million each year. The risk of dementia, including Alzheimer disease, increases sharply with age: Alzheimer's Disease International estimates that 1.4% of people 65–69 have dementia, whereas almost a full quarter of those over the age of 85 years are affected. Almost all older dementia patients will experience, along with the cognitive and functional decline typical of the illness, some neuropsychiatric symptoms. These symptoms can include agitation, aggression, and psychosis, and are often devastating for the older patient and his or her family and caregiver. Managing these symptoms is often a prime concern for health-care providers and families. Neuroleptics (sometimes called antipsychotics) are the class of drugs often used to manage or control neuropsychiatric problems, but there have been questions about their safety and appropriateness. Safety concerns involve risk of stroke, parkinsonism, sedation, edema, and chest infections but also include a worsening of cognitive decline with prolonged use of neuroleptics.
Why Was the Study Done?
Previous studies on the effectiveness and safety of neuroleptics in older people have been short term. Ballard and colleagues wanted to study over a longer period of time the impact of neuroleptic drugs on elderly patients with dementia. Specifically, they wanted to know if being on a neuroleptic was associated with more cognitive decline than coming off the drug. They also wanted to investigate whether discontinuing the drug exacerbated any neuropsychiatric symptoms, Parkinson disease-like symptoms, or other functional, language, and cognition difficulties frequently associated with dementia.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers recruited older patients with Alzheimer disease from across England who had been on neuroleptics for at least three months. They randomised patients to one of two groups: the first group continued taking the same neuroleptic at the same dosage level while the second group was switched to an identical-looking placebo. The researchers assessed the patients' cognitive status and neuropsychiatric symptoms upon their entry into the study. Six and 12 months later the researchers assessed any cognitive decline and the level of neuropsychiatric and other problems that patients were experiencing.
At both 6 and 12 months, the researchers found that there were no differences between the two groups (continued treatment and placebo) in terms of cognitive decline. The placebo group may have had less cognitive decline, but this was not statistically significant. They also found no overall differences between the two groups in the change in the number of neuropsychiatric symptoms over these time periods. Patients with severe neuropsychiatric problems at the outset of the trial did better on continued neuroleptic therapy, but this advantage was not statistically significant. There was a significant decline on the verbal fluency language tests among the patients who continued on their neuroleptic.
What Do these Findings Mean?
The researchers report perhaps the first trial of this duration on continued versus withdrawn neuroleptic treatment among older dementia patients. The findings do not indicate any benefit of continuing neuroleptic therapies in older patients on either cognitive or neuropsychiatric outcomes. The researchers conclude that neuroleptics, with their known safety issues, should not be used as first-line treatment to manage problems such as agitation or aggression. For older dementia patients whose neuropsychiatric symptoms are not remedied by nonpharmaceutical treatments, the researchers advise caution. More studies are urgently needed to find better solutions to help older patients with dementia who have agitation, aggression, and psychosis.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0050076.
Alzheimer's Disease International is an umbrella organisation of organisations worldwide
The Alzheimer's Research Trust in the UK is a charity funding research to cure or prevent dementias
The US National Institutes of Aging has information on Alzheimer Disease in English and Spanish
Two governmental regulatory agencies—the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency in the UK and the Food and Drug Administration in the US—offer information about antipsychotics in people with dementia
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0050076
PMCID: PMC2276521  PMID: 18384230
23.  Characteristics of hormone therapy, cognitive function, and dementia: the prospective 3C Study 
Neurology  2009;73(21):1729-1737.
Objectives
To examine the association between hormone therapy (HT) and cognitive performance or dementia, focusing on the duration and type of treatment used, as well as the timing of initiation of HT in relation to the menopause.
Methods
Women 65 years and older were recruited in France as part of the Three City Study. At baseline and 2 and 4 year follow-up, women were administered a short cognitive test battery and a clinical diagnosis of dementia was made. Detailed information was also gathered relating to current and past HT use. Analysis was adjusted for a number of socio-demographic, behavioural, physical and mental health variables, as well as Apolipoprotein ε4 (Apoe-ε4).
Results
Among 3130 naturally postmenopausal women, current HT users performed significantly better than never users on verbal fluency, working memory and psychomotor speed. These associations varied according to the type of treatment and a longer duration of HT appeared to be more beneficial. However, initiation of HT close to the menopause was not associated with better cognition. HT did not significantly reduce dementia risk over 4 years but current treatment diminished the negative effect associated with Apoe-ε4.
Conclusions
Current HT was associated with better performance in certain cognitive domains but these associations are dependent on the duration and type of treatment used. We found no evidence that HT needs to be initiated close to the menopause to have a beneficial effect on cognitive function in later life. Current HT may decrease the risk of dementia associated with the Apoe-ε4 allele.
doi:10.1212/WNL.0b013e3181c34b0c
PMCID: PMC2993903  PMID: 19933973
Aged; Aged, 80 and over; Apolipoproteins E; genetics; Cognition Disorders; drug therapy; etiology; genetics; Cohort Studies; Dementia; complications; genetics; Estrogen Replacement Therapy; methods; Female; Humans; Logistic Models; Neuropsychological Tests; Retrospective Studies
24.  Timing and Duration of Menopausal Hormone Treatment May Affect Cardiovascular Outcomes 
The American journal of medicine  2011;124(3):199-205.
Largely on the basis of the first publication of findings of net harm with menopausal hormone treatment in the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) hormone trials, current Food and Drug Administration recommendations limit menopausal hormone treatment to the “… shortest duration consistent with treatment goals …,” with goals generally taken to mean relief of menopausal symptoms and maximal duration as approximately 5 years. The WHI finding of net harm was due largely to the absence of beneficial effects on coronary heart disease incidence rates. Published analyses of WHI data by age or time since menopause find that excess coronary heart disease risk with menopausal hormone treatment is confined to more remotely menopausal or older women, with younger women showing nonsignificant trends toward benefit (the “timing hypothesis”). Moreover, a recently published reexamination of data from the WHI Estrogen plus Progestin trial suggests that reduced coronary heart disease risk may appear only after 5 to 6 years of treatment. Consistent with this finding, risk ratios for coronary heart disease were calculated as 1.08 (95% confidence interval, 0.86–1.36) in years 1 to 6 and as 0.46 (confidence interval, 0.28–0.78) in years 7 to 8+ in the WHI Estrogen Alone trial. Previous studies also support the beneficial effects of menopausal hormone treatment after prolonged exposure. Thus, current analyses do not support a generalized recommendation for short duration of menopausal hormone treatment. Rather, they suggest that current Food and Drug Administration practice guidelines should be reconsidered to allow individualized care based on risk:benefit considerations. New research is urgently needed evaluating influences of timing, duration, dose, route of administration, and agents on menopausal hormone treatment-related risks and benefits to better understand how to optimize recommendations for individual patients.
doi:10.1016/j.amjmed.2010.09.021
PMCID: PMC3107840  PMID: 21396500
Cardiovascular disease; Estrogen; Hormones; Menopause; Women’s health
25.  Hormones and dementia – a comparative study of hormonal impairment in post-menopausal women, with and without dementia 
Context
Women seem to be more vulnerable to dementia, particularly Alzheimer’s disease (AD), than men. There is controversy among studies correlating estrogen deficit to cognitive impairment. Because of the sudden drop of estrogens in menopause, this hormonal deficit could represent one of the risk factors for the larger incidence and prevalence of AD in post-menopausal women.
Rationale
We therefore wanted to find out if post-menopausal women with dementia, or even in a prior stage, mild cognitive impairment (MCI), would have a more significant deficit of estrogens than post-menopausal women without dementia, or any other type of cognitive problem.
Objectives
The aim of this study was to detect possible differences of the sex hormone levels among post-menopausal women, simultaneously affected by MCI or dementia, in comparison with a control group without cognitive impairment.
Design, setting, and participants
A small, multicenter, prospective study was performed on 82 post-menopausal women (41 cases, 41 controls), aged 45–81 years, to investigate their sex hormone balance. The diagnosis of dementia was made according to ICD 9 or 10 and DSM III-R or IV appropriate to the time interval. The diagnosis of probable AD followed the NINCDS-ADRDA criteria. MCI met the Paquid-study criteria. Blood was analyzed in qualified centers for LH, FSH, and 17-β-estradiol. All women went through a thorough psychiatric examination and those with a suspected hormonal impairment were examined by a gynecologist.
Results
15 cases (36.6%) had impaired hormonal function, compared with 8 controls (19.5%). Of the 15 cases with hormonal impairment, 9 had MCI.
Conclusions
These preliminary data stress a considerable difference between the sex hormone status of these two populations, showing a tendency towards a more accentuated estrogen deficit linked to cognitive deficit. Enlarging the sample and following the evolution could bring more interesting data.
PMCID: PMC2671783  PMID: 19412464
dementia; cognitive impairment; post menopause; estrogens

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