Postmenopausal estrogen replacement therapy and the risk of Alzheimer disease

Arch Neurol. 2001 Mar;58(3):435-40. doi: 10.1001/archneur.58.3.435.


Background: Previous studies have examined the relation between postmenopausal estrogen replacement therapy (ERT) and the risk of Alzheimer disease (AD). The findings have been inconsistent, since some studies have been interpreted as showing a protective effect while others have reported no effect.

Objective: To determine whether exposure to ERT is associated with a reduced risk of AD.

Design: Population-based nested case-control study.

Setting: The United Kingdom-based General Practice Research Database.

Patients: The base cohort consisted of women who were recipients of ERT (n = 112 481) and a similar cohort of women who did not use estrogens (n = 108 925). The 2 cohorts were restricted to women born on or before January 1, 1950. From the 2 cohorts, we identified and verified 59 newly diagnosed cases of AD and 221 matched control subjects.

Main outcome measure: Prior and current use of ERT in cases compared with controls.

Results: Among the 59 newly diagnosed cases of AD, 15 (25%) were current estrogen users, while among the controls, 53 (24%) were current users. The adjusted odds ratio comparing all current estrogen recipients with nonrecipients was 1.18 (95% confidence interval, 0.59-2.37). In estrogen users who took the drug for 5 years or longer compared with nonusers, the odds ratio was 1.05 (95% confidence interval, 0.32-3.44). Odds ratios were similar for estrogen recipients who received estrogens alone and recipients who received combined estrogen-progestin treatment.

Conclusion: The use of ERT in women after the onset of menopause was not associated with a reduced risk of developing AD.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Alzheimer Disease / epidemiology*
  • Alzheimer Disease / prevention & control*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cohort Studies
  • Estrogen Replacement Therapy*
  • Estrogens / administration & dosage*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Postmenopause
  • Progestins / administration & dosage*
  • Risk Factors


  • Estrogens
  • Progestins