An oophorectomy has the benefit of reducing the risk of ovarian cancer, but it is not without danger. Premature menopause and hormone disruption are caused by removing the ovaries, which can lead to heart disease, osteoporosis, depression, and other issues. A new study adds to the body of knowledge by demonstrating that oophorectomy is associated with an increased risk of dementia. The findings of the study were published today in Menopause.

Dementia affects women disproportionately, with a 55 percent higher risk from the age of 65 onwards than men. The fact that women live longer on average than men does not fully explain this sex disparity.

Estrogen has long been suspected as being a contributing factor in women’s greater dementia incidence. That’s why oophorectomy, a common procedure that permanently alters sex steroid exposure, is suspected of being a female-specific dementia risk factor. In women with a high genetic risk of ovarian cancer, bilateral oophorectomy (removal of both ovaries) is occasionally combined with hysterectomy to help prevent ovarian cancer.

Several previous research looked into the link between bilateral oophorectomy and dementia, however the results were mixed. The purpose of this new study, which included over 25,000 women, was not only to look into the prospective link between oophorectomy and the likelihood of incident dementia, but also to see if the risk was influenced by age at the time of surgery, hysterectomy, or hormone therapy use.

The researchers found that bilateral oophorectomy, but not unilateral oophorectomy, was related with an elevated risk of dementia based on their findings. They were unable to determine if this link was conditional on hysterectomy or hormone treatment use.

The findings of the study may be found in the paper “Oophorectomy and the Risk of Dementia: A Prospective Cohort Study.”

These findings are in line with previous research that has found a relationship between oophorectomy and dementia. The study’s statistical power was weak, which could explain why age and hormone therapy use had no effect on this connection. Given the substantial body of research indicating potential long-term negative consequences associated with oophorectomy before menopause, risk-reducing oophorectomy should be limited to those women with a hereditary high cancer risk “Dr. Stephanie Faubion, medical director of NAMS, agrees.


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