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Hormones May Play a Role in Parkinson's

Study Shows Length of Fertility for Women May Be a Factor in Risk for Parkinson's Disease

Fertile Life Span and Parkinson's Disease continued...

Why multiple pregnancies increases the risk is not known for certain, Saunders-Pullman says. "We speculate because of the multiple postpartum periods, [their] hormone levels drop [repeatedly]," she says of women who give birth four or more times.

The findings in the surgical menopause group, much smaller than the natural menopause group, need more analysis, she says. The study was supported by the National Institutes of Health and The Thomas Hartman Foundation for Parkinson's Research.

The study "suggests there clearly is a hormonal role as far as women developing Parkinson's disease," Saunders-Pullman says. But, she adds, "It is far too premature to consider going on hormone therapy to protect against Parkinson's disease."

"It's worth looking further into this," she says of the association.

"The results remain suggestive but not definitive," says William J. Weiner, MD, chair and professor of neurology at the University of Maryland Medical Center and director of Maryland Parkinson's Disease and Movement Disorders Center, Baltimore, who reviewed the study results for WebMD.

"No practical advice can be given based on these results," he says. "Further, this finding is an association, not a definite cause and result."

In Parkinson's disease, nerve cells in one part of the brain progressively deteriorate. These nerve cells normally produce a crucial brain chemical called dopamine, a chemical messenger that allows communication between areas of the brain important for smooth muscle movement and nerve functioning.

As the disease progresses, those who have it may have difficulty talking, walking, or doing other simple tasks. While there is not a cure, according to the National Institutes of Health, a variety of medications can provide relief from symptoms.

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