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Cognitive Changes After Menopause: Influence of Estrogen


Clinical Obstetrics and Gynecology: September 2008 - Volume 51 - Issue 3 - p 618-626
doi: 10.1097/GRF.0b013e318180ba10
Evidence-Based Approach to Menopause

The natural menopause is not associated with substantial cognitive change. Limited clinical trial evidence suggests that estrogen-containing hormone therapy has little effect on cognition during midlife, but prompt initiation after surgical menopause may improve aspects of memory. Among older postmenopausal women, strong clinical trial evidence demonstrates that hormone initiation does not improve cognition. More limited clinical trial evidence indicates no improvement in Alzheimer symptoms, and the Women's Health Initiative Memory Study found an increase in dementia risk among older women. Observational findings of reduced Alzheimer risk may reflect early hormone use in younger women, or findings may be biased. Cognitive effects of selective estrogen receptor modulators are not yet well studied.

Departments of Health Research and Policy (Epidemiology) and of Neurology and Neurological Sciences, Stanford University, Stanford, California

Conflicts of Interest: None.

Supported in part by National Institutes of Health Grant R01 AG023038.

Correspondence: Victor W. Henderson, MD, MS, Stanford University, 259 Campus Drive, HRP Redwood Building, Stanford, CA 94305-5405. E-mail:

Off-label use: There is no approved indication for estrogen for the treatment or prevention of cognitive aging or Alzheimer disease.

© 2008 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.