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Removal of Ovaries Found to Promote Dementia

Saturday, January 05, 2008 by: David Gutierrez, staff writer
Tags: ovaries, menopause, health news

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(NewsTarget) Women who undergo removal of one or both of their ovaries before menopause have a significantly higher risk of developing dementia, according to a new study published in the online version of the journal Neurology.

Researchers from the Mayo Clinic analyzed the data from approximately 3,000 women, half of whom had undergone a procedure to remove one or both of their ovaries between 1950 and 1987, the other half of whom had never had any ovaries removed. They interviewed either the women or an acquaintance, asking questions about the mental functions that are impaired in Alzheimer's disease or other forms of dementia. They found that women who'd had ovaries removed had a 50 percent higher chance of suffering mental decline.

Lead researcher Walter Rocca said that the study's results do not apply to women who have ovaries removed as part of cancer treatment, because no women in that category were included in the participant pool.

Even in cases without cancer, ovaries are often removed as a precaution against developing it.

Rocca said that the study suggests that women should carefully consult with doctors before deciding to have their ovaries removed, and that younger women who decide to do so should seriously consider taking estrogen until age 50.

While research has linked hormone therapy to increased dementia and heart disease risk in women over the age of 65, other research has suggested that it may be beneficial when limited to the time just before and after menopause.

The researchers also looked at approximately 5,000 women, half of whom had undergone ovary removal, and examined them for symptoms of Parkinson's disease. They found that women whose ovaries had been removed had a 70 percent higher chance of experiencing Parkinson's symptoms or diagnosis. However, these results were weaker and less common than the dementia results.

In response to the media coverage of both studies, Rocca emphasized that the results of the research still need to be confirmed and that more studies are needed.

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