Importance: It is unclear whether female carriers of the apolipoprotein E (APOE) ε4 allele are at greater risk of developing Alzheimer disease (AD) than men, and the sex-dependent association of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and APOE has not been established.
Objective: To determine how sex and APOE genotype affect the risks for developing MCI and AD.
Data sources: Twenty-seven independent research studies in the Global Alzheimer's Association Interactive Network with data on nearly 58 000 participants.
Study selection: Non-Hispanic white individuals with clinical diagnostic and APOE genotype data.
Data extraction and synthesis: Homogeneous data sets were pooled in case-control analyses, and logistic regression models were used to compute risks.
Main outcomes and measures: Age-adjusted odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals for developing MCI and AD were calculated for men and women across APOE genotypes.
Results: Participants were men and women between ages 55 and 85 years. Across data sets most participants were white, and for many participants, racial/ethnic information was either not collected or not known. Men (OR, 3.09; 95% CI, 2.79-3.42) and women (OR, 3.31; CI, 3.03-3.61) with the APOE ε3/ε4 genotype from ages 55 to 85 years did not show a difference in AD risk; however, women had an increased risk compared with men between the ages of 65 and 75 years (women, OR, 4.37; 95% CI, 3.82-5.00; men, OR, 3.14; 95% CI, 2.68-3.67; P = .002). Men with APOE ε3/ε4 had an increased risk of AD compared with men with APOE ε3/ε3. The APOE ε2/ε3 genotype conferred a protective effect on women (OR, 0.51; 95% CI, 0.43-0.61) decreasing their risk of AD more (P value = .01) than men (OR, 0.71; 95% CI, 0.60-0.85). There was no difference between men with APOE ε3/ε4 (OR, 1.55; 95% CI, 1.36-1.76) and women (OR, 1.60; 95% CI, 1.43-1.81) in their risk of developing MCI between the ages of 55 and 85 years, but women had an increased risk between 55 and 70 years (women, OR, 1.43; 95% CI, 1.19-1.73; men, OR, 1.07; 95% CI, 0.87-1.30; P = .05). There were no significant differences between men and women in their risks for converting from MCI to AD between the ages of 55 and 85 years. Individuals with APOE ε4/ε4 showed increased risks vs individuals with ε3/ε4, but no significant differences between men and women with ε4/ε4 were seen.
Conclusions and relevance: Contrary to long-standing views, men and women with the APOE ε3/ε4 genotype have nearly the same odds of developing AD from age 55 to 85 years, but women have an increased risk at younger ages.