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Early Short-Term Use of Estrogen Has No Effect on Cognition, Study Finds

No Sustained Benefit, Risk to Cognitive Function of Postmenopausal Hormone Therapy Prescribed to Women Ages 50 to 55 Years

CHICAGO - June, 24, 2013 - Postmenopausal hormone therapy with conjugated equine estrogens (CEEs) was not associated with overall sustained benefit or risk to cognitive function when given to women ages 50 to 55 years, according to a new study from Wake Forest Baptist medical Center.

The Women's Health Initiative Memory Study (WHIMS) demonstrated that postmenopausal hormone therapy with CEEs, when prescribed to women 65 years and older, caused deficits in global and domain-specific cognitive functioning.

The Women's Health Initiative Memory Study of Younger Women (WHIMSY) tested whether prescribing CEE-based hormone therapy to postmenopausal women ages 50 to 55 years had longer-term effects on cognitive function. The study by Mark A. Espeland, Ph.D., of Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, and colleagues presents primary findings from this study published Online First by JAMA Internal Medicine, a JAMA Network publication.

"Global cognitive function scores from women who had been assigned to CEE-based therapies were similar to those from women assigned to placebo," according to the study results. "Similarly, no overall differences were found for any individual cognitive domain."

The study included 1,326 postmenopausal women, who had started treatment in two randomized placebo-controlled clinical trial of hormone therapy when they were ages 50 to 55 years. The clinical trials the women participated in compared 0.625mg CEE with or without 2.5mg medroxyprogesterone acetate over an average of seven years.

"Our findings provide reassurance that CEE-based therapies when administered to women earlier in the postmenopausal period do not seem to convey long-term adverse consequences for cognitive function. Although we cannot rule out acute benefits or harm, these do not appear to be present to any degree a mean of seven years after cessation of therapy. One exception may be for minor longer-term disturbances of verbal fluency for women prescribed CEE alone; however this may be a chance finding," the authors conclude.

(JAMA Intern Med. Published online June 24, 2013. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.7727. Available pre-embargo to the media at

Editor's Note: An author made a conflict of interest disclosure. The study was supported by a National Institute on Aging contract. Other funding also was disclosed. Please see the article for additional information, including other authors, author contributions and affiliations, financial disclosures, funding and support, etc.




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