According to two studies released on June 19, women who take estrogen for years after menopause cut their risk of death from all causes by 37% and of Alzheimer’s dementia by 54%. However, long-term estrogen therapy after 10 years also carries a 43% higher risk of dying from breast cancer. Thus benefits of estrogen therapy appear to wane after a decade when the risk of death is only 20 percent lower for estrogen-takers. Francine Grodstein of Harvard Medical school commented, “Overall the benefits do seem to outweigh the risks,” while breast cancer specialist Dr. Susan Love noted that the benefits did not come without consequences. Researchers say that women at high risk of breast cancer still reduce their risk of premature death by 35% through estrogen therapy because women are much more likely to die of heart disease than breast cancer. Caught early, breast cancer can often be treated. Grodstein and her colleagues studied women who were participants in the Nurses Health Study, which began in 1976. They studied the effect of estrogen on 3, 637 women who died between 1976 and 1992 and on 30,000 others. The study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Researchers at Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions and the National Institute of Aging conducted the Alzheimer’s study appearing in Neurology and found that only 9 of the women taking estrogen daily developed Alzheimer’s compared to 25 who did not. Of the 465 post-menopausal women studied, 45% took estrogen daily.