A new study finds that estrogen patches may help reduce Alzheimer's disease risk among postmenopausal women.
In the study, female participants who went menopausal for less than three years yielded lower amyloid deposit levels in their brains after an estrogen patch treatment. Amyloid deposit level is a known hallmark of the neurodegenerative disease.
According to the research team from the Mayo Clinic, findings suggested that the hormone therapy given earlier can help prevent Alzheimer's disease among postmenopausal women.
In the United States, the average menopause age for women is 51 years old. However, women often wait until they reach 65 before getting an estrogen replacement treatment.
The rapid estrogen decline following menopause usually happens 12 months after the woman's last menstrual period. Estrogen loss could increase the risk of developing late-onset Alzheimer's.
Women who have the APOE e4 gene, which is typically associated with the neurodegenerative disease, exhibit estrogen decline, increasing the risk of developing Alzheimer's.
According to Mayo Clinic radiologist Dr. Kejal Kantarci, if a bigger study could confirm their findings, it could potentially lead to a shift in perceptions on Alzheimer's disease's current preventive interventions.
"This study showed, for the first time, that the brain amyloid deposition — a hallmark of Alzheimer's disease — is reduced in newly postmenopausal women who received 17beta-Estradiol patch form of hormone therapy," said lead study author Kantarci.
For the study, the Mayo Clinic researchers used data from the Kronos Early Estrogen Prevention Study to see the effects of hormone therapy among postmenopausal women below the age of 65 years. This is also the stage — between five to 36 months following menopause — that is considered to be the "critical window" wherein estrogen is rapidly depleting.
The team studied the data of 68 women aged 42 to 59 years old. They utilized positron emission tomography (PET scan) to analyze the brain amyloid deposits. Among the female participants, 21 were given estrogen patches and 17 were given estrogen orally. There were 30 women who received a placebo treatment.
While the oral estrogen treatment was not linked to reduced levels of amyloid deposits, the women who received estrogen patches showed lower levels compared with the placebo group. The estrogen's effects were most evident among the female participants with the APOE e4 genotype.
The study is published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease. Kantarci added that the findings could also benefit postmenopausal women who are trying to decide to get hormone therapy before turning 65 years old.