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Neurobiol Aging. 2012 Sep;33(9):1950-8. doi: 10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2011.08.002. Epub 2011 Sep 16.

Premenopausal hysterectomy is associated with increased brain ferritin iron.

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1
Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, The David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA.

Abstract

Iron is essential for triggering oligodendrocytes to myelinate, however, in gray matter (GM) iron increases with age and is associated with age-related degenerative brain diseases. Women have lower iron levels than men, both in the periphery and in the brain, particularly in white matter (WM), possibly due to iron loss through menstruation. We tested the hypothesis that hysterectomy could increase WM iron levels. We assessed 3 WM and 5 gray matter regions in 39 postmenopausal women, of whom 15 had premenopausal hysterectomy, utilizing a validated magnetic resonance imaging technique called field-dependent R2 increase (FDRI) that quantifies ferritin iron. A group of 54 matched male subjects was included for comparison. Amongst women, hysterectomy was associated with significantly higher frontal lobe WM iron. Men had higher iron levels than women without hysterectomy in 3 brain regions but did not differ from women with hysterectomy in any region. The results suggest that menstruation-associated blood loss is a source of gender differences in brain iron. It is possible that brain iron can be influenced by peripheral iron levels and may thus be a modifiable risk factor for age-related degenerative diseases.

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