Sept. 24, 2007 -- Hormone therapy begun years after menopause doesn't improve mental function, but it does boost sexual interest, researchers find.
Forgetfulness is more of a problem for women during and after menopause than it is before menopause. Does this mean the hormonal changes of menopause cause a decline in mental function? And if so, can hormone therapy help?
Studies suggest that hormone therapy begun during menopause can preserve mental function. Might later hormone therapy do the same?
In a study funded by Wyeth, the maker of the hormone products Prempro (estrogen plus progesterone) and Premarin (estrogen only), 180 healthy women began taking either Prempro or inactive placebo pills one to three years after menopause.
After four months of treatment, researchers Pauline Maki, PhD, of the University of Illinois at Chicago and colleagues gave the women a battery of mental-function tests. Among other measures, they also gave the women a test that evaluated their sexuality, including sexual thoughts and interest in sex.
Hormone therapy did not help the women's memory.
"These results are similar to previous studies suggesting hormone therapy has minimal effect on a woman's memory when taken many years after menopause," Maki says in a news release.
But when it came to sexuality, it was a different story.
"The level of sexual interest reported by women on hormone therapy increased 44%," Maki says. "And their number of sexual thoughts increased 32% compared to the placebo group."
The Maki study had just begun when the results of the Women's Health Initiative showed that hormone therapy begun after menopause increases a woman's risk of breast cancer without decreasing risk of heart disease. The Maki study thus came to an abrupt end before it could enroll as many women as planned. This means the results have to be taken with a grain of salt.
The study appears in the Sept. 25 issue of the journal Neurology.