Prof Michael Baum brands Times' article suggesting links between HRT and Alzheimer's as "unhelpful and misleading"

Published: 12th March 2019

Professor Michael Baum, Prof Emeritus of Surgery, ULC, London issues a rapid response to an article in The Times suggesting a link between HRT and Alzheimer's.

"GPs and gynaecologists have a near impossible task of keeping up to date and counselling women who might be suffering from the often appalling symptoms of the menopausal syndrome that could be assuaged by HRT. This new paper is frankly unhelpful and misleading. The inevitable headlines in the media have added to the problem. Bad news about HRT is always picked by the press.

There are two serious problems with this paper. As always the relative risks look frightening yet in absolute terms we are looking at a number of 18 per 10,000 women on HRT.

The other problem, as hinted at by the authors, is the problem of selection bias in a case control study. The early symptoms of dementia might easily be confused by one of the common symptoms of the menopause, confusion or lapses of memory. Such a tiny difference in absolute risk could easily be explained away by this bias. Many women frightened off taking HRT may not live long enough to suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, dying prematurely from cardio-vascular and cerebra-vascular disease or the complications from pathological fractures. The BMJ now has a responsibility of repairing the damage."

Competing interests: No competing interests

07 March 2019

Michael Baum
Prof emeritus of surgery
UCL
London

@MichaelBaum11