Hormone Therapy May

Cut Alzheimer's Risk

Post-menopausal hormone replacement therapy, or HRT, may help prevent Alzheimer's disease when the drugs are used for 10 years or more, a study said yesterday.

The study, published in today's Journal of the American Medical Association, will add to the fierce debate over hormone replacement therapy, which recent research has shown is not as safe and helpful as was previously believed.

Hormone replacement therapy using a combination of estrogen and progestin has been popular among millions of women seeking to ease the symptoms of menopause, including hot flashes and mood swings. The therapy had also been promoted to lower the risk of heart disease, to keep women feeling younger and to prevent bones from becoming brittle.

But a study published in July cast doubt on the treatment, saying it increased the risk of heart disease and breast cancer when used for more than five years. The government strengthened the warning labels on the drugs used in that study -- Wyeth Pharmaceuticals' PremPro and Premarin.

In the new study, Peter P. Zandi of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and colleagues studied the rates of Alzheimer's disease between 1995 and 2000 in 1,889 women, all elderly, in Cache County, Utah. Women who had used HRT drugs for at least a decade were 2.5 times less likely than women who had never used them to develop Alzheimer's.

Other studies on HRT and Alzheimer's have had conflicting results. At a conference at the National Institutes of Health last month, researchers said more study is needed to determine whether HRT can reduce the risk of Alzheimer's. The new findings are unlikely to settle the question.

Herpes Virus Suspected

As Cancer Risk Factor

The virus that causes genital herpes may act as an accomplice to another virus known to cause cervical cancer, making a woman more susceptible to cancer, researchers reported yesterday.

Human papilloma virus, also known as HPV, is a major cause of cervical cancer. The disease killed an estimated 4,400 women in the United States last year. But researchers have long suspected that other sexually transmitted diseases could add to the risk.

Genital herpes, caused by the herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2), was a prime suspect, but studies have not come to any clear conclusion.

Jennifer Smith of the International Agency for Research on Cancer in Lyon, France and colleagues around the world studied specimens from more than 1,200 cervical cancer patients in several countries and compared them to samples from 1,100 other women of similar ages and circumstances. They analyzed their blood for evidence of herpes simplex virus types 2 and 1, which causes cold sores, as well as a common sexually transmitted disease caused by chlamydia bacteria. They found 44 percent of the women with cancer carried the genital herpes virus as opposed to 25 percent of women without cancer.

"HSV-2 infection may act in conjunction with HPV infection to increase the risk of invasive cervical carcinoma," they wrote in today's issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

-- Compiled from reports by Reuters