Researchers Study Estrogen's Impact on Alzheimer's Disease

July 14, 1997
Media Contact: Michael Purdy
Phone: (410)955-8725

A nationwide study group that includes researchers at Johns Hopkins is starting the first major trial of estrogen's effects on women with Alzheimer's disease (AD).

Hopkins and the National Institute on Aging (NIA) recently published a study showing women who use estrogen appear to have less risk of developing Alzheimer's disease (AD).

For the new study, Hopkins investigators are seeking women who have been recently diagnosed with AD and who also have had a hysterectomy. Nationwide, scientists plan to recruit 120 patients for the study, which will last one year.

Animal studies and statistical studies have long suggested links between estrogen use and improved mental abilities, improved nerve cell health and longevity, and reduced chances of developing AD. But until these links are confirmed, the potential side effects of estrogen, which may include increased breast and uterine cancer risk, discourage scientists from recommending estrogen for treatment or prevention of AD.

The multicenter trial, conducted by the Alzheimer's Disease Cooperative Study Unit, will be among the first to look specifically at estrogen's therapeutic value for AD.

The hysterectomy requirement for participants eliminates the risk of uterine cancer created by estrogen use, says Ann Morrison, a clinical nurse specialist and information outreach coordinator for the Alzheimer's Disease Research Center at Johns Hopkins Bayview.

Working in collaboration with the NIA, Hopkins scientists won recognition for research into AD risk factors using data from a long-term NIA study of Baltimore residents, the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging. Risk factors they studied included mental activities and use of painkillers and estrogen.

To volunteer for the estrogen study in the Baltimore area, call 410-550-2597. A list of the 25 additional research sites involved in the study also is available.

-- JHMI --
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