Removal of ovaries linked to Parkinson's

April 15, 2005|By John Fauber | John Fauber,KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

Women who have had their ovaries removed are twice as likely to later develop Parkinson's disease, according to new research.

The Mayo Clinic said the increased risk may be the result of losing the natural, brain-protecting effect of estrogen, and preliminary data suggest that risk also may apply to Alzheimer's disease.

The study, presented Wednesday at the American Academy of Neurology's annual meeting in Miami Beach, Fla., is the first to show a direct link between Parkinson's and ovary removal, a procedure known as an oophorectomy, said lead author Walter Rocca.

The study involved 2,500 Minnesota women who had one or both ovaries removed before they were 55. The women were followed for up to 30 years.

Those who had both ovaries removed had twice the risk of later developing Parkinson's. The removal of one ovary increased the risk by 40 percent.

The younger they were at the time of the surgery, the greater the risk, said Rocca, a Mayo Clinic neurologist and epidemiologist.

"We really are talking about a long-term effect," he said. "Either they get less estrogen, or they get less estrogen early in life."

Rocca said he did not know if ovary removal after menopause also increased Parkinson's risk, although there is some reason to believe it might.

Preliminary data suggest that premenopausal ovary removal may increase the risk of Alzheimer's, Rocca said. "Cognitive impairment and dementia are increased in women who have two ovaries removed, but also one ovary removed," he said. "The magnitude is similar [to Parkinson's]."

Rocca declined to comment more on the Alzheimer's data because that study has not been completed.

Removal of both ovaries eliminates the body's major source of estrogen. Estrogen-replacement therapy can replenish some of that, but it generally is in lower doses and for a shorter period of time, Rocca said.

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