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31 July 2006
Estrogen A Factor In Male Menopause?
by George Atkinson

A study in the Annals of Neurology has found that higher estrogen levels in older men appear to be linked to the onset of dementia. The researchers, from the University Medical Center in Utrecht (Holland), have been assessing the possible role that sex hormones may play in diseases like Alzheimer's, which is the most common cause of dementia. In past studies, it was found that women receiving estrogen therapy had an increased risk of dementia, but until now, little investigation had been carried out on men.

The new study, led by Mirjam Geerlings, looked at whether older men's levels of testosterone and estrogen were associated with their risk of cognitive decline and dementia, including Alzheimer's. The study took in data from nearly 3,000 men over an eight year period, focusing on testosterone and estradiol (estrogen) levels, and cognitive ability.

Geerling said that their findings suggested a link between estrogen and dementia, but not testosterone and dementia. "Levels of bioavailable testosterone were not associated with risk of cognitive decline and incident dementia," she said. "In contrast, higher levels of estradiol were associated with an increased risk for cognitive decline and Alzheimer's disease."

But the researchers aren't sure if the high levels of estradiol are a consequence (a marker) of Alzheimer's disease, or a cause. "Our findings of an increased risk of cognitive decline and Alzheimer's disease associated with higher estradiol are similar to recent findings in postmenopausal women. Further studies are needed to examine whether there are mechanisms by which estradiol may increase risk of cognitive decline and dementia."

Based on material from the Annals of Neurology

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