Naturally produced estrogen may protect women from Parkinson's disease

Feb 25, 2009

Women who have more years of fertility (the time from first menstruation to menopause) have a lower risk of developing Parkinson’s disease than women with fewer years, according to a large, new study by researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University.

“These findings, involving nearly 74,000 women, suggest that longer exposure to the body’s own, or endogenous, hormones, including estrogen, may help protect the brain cells that are affected by Parkinson’s disease,” says lead author Rachel Saunders-Pullman, M.D., M.P.H., M.S., assistant professor of neurology at Einstein and attending physician in neurology at Beth Israel Medical Center, an affiliate of Einstein’s in Manhattan.

An abstract of the study was released today by the American Academy of Neurology (AAN). Further study details will be presented at AAN’s 61st Annual Meeting in Seattle, April 25 - May 2, 2009.

After Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease is the most common neurodegenerative disease. About 1.5 million Americans currently have Parkinson’s, characterized by symptoms that can include tremor (shaking), slowness of movement, rigidity (stiffness), and difficulty with balance. The condition typically develops after the age of 60, although 15 percent of those diagnosed are under 50. There is no cure for Parkinson’s, although medications or surgery can ease symptoms of the disease.

Parkinson’s disease is almost twice as common in men as in women, and researchers have long hypothesized that sex hormones might play a role in the disease.

In the current study, researchers analyzed the records of the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) Observational Study and focused on those women who developed Parkinson’s disease. The study involved about 73,973 women who underwent natural menopause.

The study found that women who had a fertile lifespan of more than 39 years had about a 25 percent lower risk of developing Parkinson’s compared with women who had a fertile lifespan shorter than 33 years.

In addition, the data showed that women who had four or more pregnancies were about 20 percent more likely to develop Parkinson’s disease than were women who had three or fewer pregnancies. “One explanation for this finding is that the post-partum period, which is typically one with lower levels of estrogen, subtracts from a woman’s total fertile lifespan,” says co-author Sylvia Wassertheil-Smoller, Ph.D., professor of epidemiology and population health and the principal investigator of the WHI study at Einstein.

“Overall, our findings might lead one to assume that hormone therapy would make sense as a neuroprotective agent,” says Dr. Saunders-Pullman. “However, we also found that women who were taking hormone therapy did not have a lower risk for Parkinson’s. Thus, our data does not support a role for treatment with exogenous hormones, that is, hormones that originate outside the body, to prevent Parkinson’s.”

In fact, hormone therapy can have harmful neurological effects. “Earlier studies in the Women’s Health Initiative demonstrated that hormone therapy increases one’s risk for both stroke and dementia,” says Dr. Wassertheil-Smoller. “Clearly, we need to conduct more research into estrogen’s effects on the brain.”

Source: Albert Einstein College of Medicine

Explore further: German medics report on drug success for Ebola patient

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Microbial 'signature' for sexual crimes

2 hours ago

Bacterial communities living on an individual's pubic hairs could be used as a microbial 'signature' to trace their involvement in sexual assault cases, according to a study published in the open access journal Investigative Ge ...

Brazil: Google fined in Petrobras probe

3 hours ago

A Brazilian court says it has fined Google around $200,000 for refusing to intercept emails needed in a corruption investigation at state-run oil company Petrobras.

Atari's 'E.T.' game joins Smithsonian collection

4 hours ago

One of the "E.T." Atari game cartridges unearthed this year from a heap of garbage buried deep in the New Mexico desert has been added to the video game history collection at the Smithsonian.

Sony threatens to sue for publishing stolen emails

4 hours ago

A lawyer representing Sony Pictures Entertainment is warning news organizations not to publish details of company files leaked by hackers in one of the largest digital breaches ever against an American company.

Microsoft builds support over Ireland email case

4 hours ago

Microsoft said Monday it had secured broad support from a coalition of influential technology and media firms as it seeks to challenge a US ruling ordering it to hand over emails stored on a server in Ireland.

Recommended for you

Evidence-based recs issued for systemic care in psoriasis

2 hours ago

(HealthDay)—For appropriately selected patients with psoriasis, combining biologics with other systemic treatments, including phototherapy, oral medications, or other biologic, may result in greater efficacy ...

Bacteria in caramel apples kills at least four in US

2 hours ago

A listeria outbreak believed to originate from commercially packaged caramel apples has killed at least four people in the United States and sickened 28 people since November, officials said Friday.

Steroid-based treatment may answer needs of pediatric EoE patients

2 hours ago

A new formulation of oral budesonide suspension, a steroid-based treatment, is safe and effective in treating pediatric patients with eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE), according to a new study in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, the official clinical practice journal ...

Discovery of genes that predispose a severe form of COPD

5 hours ago

A study by Ramcés Falfán-Valencia, researcher at the National Institute of Respiratory Diseases (INER), found that the mestizo Mexican population has a number of variations in certain genes that predispose ...

On the environmental trail of food pathogens

6 hours ago

Tracking one of the deadliest food contamination organisms through produce farms and natural environments alike, Cornell microbiologists are showing how to use big datasets to predict where the next outbreak could start.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.