Women who carry a copy of a gene variant called ApoE4, which increases the risk for Alzheimer’s, are more likely to develop the disease than men who have the same gene.
Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine made the discovery after analyzing data on large numbers of older individuals who were tracked over time, according to a news release. The findings, published in the Annals of Neurology, have large implications for genetic counselors, clinicians and patients. One in eight Americans past the age of 65 – between 5 to 6 million – has Alzheimer’s.
The number of women with Alzheimer’s already exceeds that of men because they on average live longer. But that only explains part of women’s increased susceptibility to Alzheimer’s, the release states.
“Even after correcting for age, women appear to be at greater risk,” said Dr. Michael Greicius, assistant professor of neurology and neurological sciences and medical director of the Stanford Center for Memory Disorders.
Greicius and his colleagues analyzed the records of more than 8,000 people. Most of them were older than 60. All of the patients who were ApoE4 carriers had a higher likelihood of Alzheimer’s disease, as researchers expected. But their analysis revealed that while the increased risk was only marginal for men, women had close to twice the likelihood of progressing to 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,” Greicius said.
Greicius, who continues to see patients in addition to his research, said clinicians need to take different approaches to patients who have this gene variant, depending on their sex.
“These days, a lot of people are getting genotyped either in the clinic or commercially. People come to me and say, ‘I have an ApoE4 gene, what should I do?’ If that person is a man, I would tell him that his risk is not increased much, if at all. If it’s a woman, my advice will be different.”
Source: Stanford University Medical Center
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