Posted on Feb 27, 2009, 1 p.m.
By gary clark
A study has shown that women with a longer lifespan between the time they start menstruating and the time they complete menopause have less risk of developing Parkinson's disease.
Scientists from Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City conducted research involving almost 82,000 postmenopausal women and found that women who are fertile for more than 39 years and who go through a natural menopause have less risk of developing Parkinson's. At the same time, the study found that women with four or more pregnancies are at 20 percent greater risk of developing the neurological disease. And for those women who had hysterectomies, which surgically catapulted them into menopause, their chances of getting Parkinson's nearly doubled.
"Thirty five or thirty-six years is about average," says study researcher Rachel Saunders-Pullman, MD, MPH, assistant professor of neurology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. "It does appear that hormones and reproductive factors play a role in the development of Parkinson's disease." Specifically, she says that the "longer duration of exposure to the body's own hormones may help protect the brain cells affected by Parkinson's." Dr. Saunders-Pullman will present her findings at the American Academy of Neurology's 61st annual meeting in Seattle, April 25-May 2.
Dr. Saunders-Pullman notes that researchers have been looking into the role of hormonal factors in Parkinson's for about 15 years. Knowing that the disease affects two times more men than women, she suggests that the key question is, "Why are women at decreased risk? Is there a hormonal role? Could female hormones be protective?"
Saunders-Pullman and her colleagues analzyed records from the Women's Health Initiative Observational Study, 74,000 women who underwent natural menopause and 7,800 who had surgical menopause. While the findings "suggests there clearly is a hormonal role as far as women developing Parkinson's disease," Saunders-Pullman says, "It is far too premature to consider going on hormone therapy to protect against Parkinson's disease."
News Release: Hormones may help shield women from Parkinson's www.health.usnews.com February 25, 2009
News Release: Hormones May Play a Role in Parkinson's http://www.webmd.com/ February 25, 2009