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Menopause. 2006 Jan-Feb;13(1):28-36.

Hormone therapy, timing of initiation, and cognition in women aged older than 60 years: the REMEMBER pilot study.

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Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Stanford University, CA, USA.



The aim of this pilot study was to assess any trends related to the timing of initiation, and duration, of hormone therapy (HT) use on cognitive function to facilitate the design and power calculations for a future large cohort study entitled Research into Memory, Brain function and Estrogen Replacement (REMEMBER).


A total of 428 women aged older than 60 years were recruited from a computer-generated random selection of Adelaide households. Demographic and lifestyle characteristics, and HT use history were recorded and confirmed. The Center for Epidemiological Studies-Depression score was used to assess mood. Cognitive tests were administered measuring global cognition (Mini-Mental State Examination), attention and concentration (Trail Making Test Parts A and B), verbal learning and memory (Consortium to Establish a Registry for Alzheimer's Disease [CERAD] word list immediate and delayed recall), and verbal expression (letter fluency [FAS], category fluency [Animals], and the Boston Naming Test [short form]). Analyses were adjusted for age, education, mood, body mass index, smoking, alcohol intake, and history of cerebrovascular disease. HT use was defined as the use of systemic HT for at least 1 year. Early initiation of HT use was defined as commencement of HT before age 56 years for women with a uterus and ovaries, or within 5 years of a hysterectomy and bilateral oophorectomy. Late initiation of HT use was defined as HT commencing after these times.


Early initiators of HT performed better than late initiators on the Mini-Mental State Examination (P = 0.04) and were faster than never users on the Trail Making Test Part A (P = 0.02). Women aged 70-79 years who initiated HT early performed better on the FAS test than never users (P = 0.0008). Late initiators performed worse than never users on the Mini-Mental State Examination (P = 0.09), and on the FAS test in the 60-69 year (P = 0.06) and 80 years and older (P = 0.095) age groups. However, late initiators performed better than never users on the FAS test in the 70-79 year age group (P = 0.015). HT users of less than 11 years (P = 0.09), HT users of more than 11 years (P = 0.04), and estrogen-only users (P = 0.024) performed faster than never users on the Trail Making Test Part A. Combined estrogen plus progestin users performed better than never users on the Boston Naming Test short form (P = 0.07).


For some cognitive domains, early initiation of HT from around menopause may be beneficial, and initiation of HT in late menopause may be detrimental. The timing of the initiation of HT seems critical. To fully test these hypotheses and to further examine these trends by route and type of HT regimen in this population, a study size of 2,500 women would be required.

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