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Gene Variant Causes Women to have a Higher Risk of Alzheimer’s

Update Date: Apr 15, 2014 03:00 PM EDT

According to a new study, researchers believe that they have found another possible explanation as to why more women than men end up developing the most common type of dementia, Alzheimer's disease. The researchers discovered a particular gene variant that heightens women's risk for the disease.

For this study, the researchers from Stanford University examined data collected on more than 8,000 people who came from around 30 Alzheimer's centers throughout the United States. The majority of the people were older than 60. They were all monitored over a long period of time.

When the researchers analyzed the patients, they discovered a gene variant called ApoE4. The ApoE4 gene affected Alzheimer's risk for both men and women. However, for women in particular, the risk was greater. Women who have the gene variant were nearly two times more likely to have mild cognitive impairment or Alzheimer's disease.

"Our study showed that, among healthy older controls, having one copy of the ApoE4 variant confers a substantial Alzheimer's disease risk in women, but not in men," said Michael Greicius, MD, assistant professor of neurology and neurological sciences and medical director of the Stanford Center for Memory Disorders. "Even after correcting for age, women appear to be at greater risk."

Michelle Mielke, a psychiatric epidemiology at Mayo Clinic, added according to NPR, "What is interesting in relation to this paper is that animal and cellular studies suggest that there is an interaction between APOE4 and estrogen. So that may possibly be explaining the findings we're seeing here in humans."

The study was published in Annals of Neurology.

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