Objective: To investigate the risk of AD associated with a family history of dementia, female gender, low levels of education, smoking, and head trauma.
Background: These putative factors have been identified in cross-sectional studies. However, those studies are prone to bias due to systematic differences between patients and control subjects regarding survival and how risk factors are recalled.
Methods: The authors performed a pooled analysis of four European population-based prospective studies of individuals 65 years and older, with 528 incident dementia patients and 28,768 person-years of follow-up. Patients were detected by screening the total cohort with brief cognitive tests, followed by a diagnostic assessment of those who failed the screening tests. Dementia was diagnosed with the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 3rd ed. (revised), and AD was diagnosed according to National Institute of Neurological and Communicative Disorders and Stroke-Alzheimer's Disease and Related Disorders Association criteria. Incident rates and relative risk (95% CI) express the association of a risk factor for dementia.
Results: Incident rates for dementia and AD were similar across studies. The incidence of AD increased with age. At 90 years of age and older the incidence was 63.5 (95% CI, 49.7 to 81.0) per 1,000 person-years. Female gender, current smoking (more strongly in men), and low levels of education (more strongly in women) increased the risk of AD significantly. A history of head trauma with unconsciousness and family history of dementia did not increase risk significantly.
Conclusion: Contrary to previous reports, head trauma was not a risk factor for AD, and smoking did not protect against AD. The association of family history with the risk of AD is weaker than previously estimated on the basis of cross-sectional studies. Female gender may modify the risk of AD, whether it be via biological or behavioral factors.