REMOVAL of a woman's ovaries leads to an increased risk of mental decline in older age, a study has found.
THE procedure, which triggers a "surgical menopause", is most often carried out on younger women because of cancer. It usually accompanies removal of the womb, or hysterectomy.
Scientists studied 1,837 women aged between 53 and 100 -- a third had experienced a surgical menopause.
The women were given tests to measure thinking skills and memory. They showed that having a surgical menopause at an earlier age was associated with faster declines in thinking ability and certain kinds of memory.
The findings were presented at the American Academy of Neurology's annual meeting in San Diego, US, today.
Lead scientist Dr Riley Bove, from Harvard Medical School, said the results suggested a potential benefit from HRT -- hormone replacement therapy.
"While we found a link between surgical menopause and thinking and memory decline, women on longer HRTs had slower declines," Dr Bove explained.
"Our research raises questions as to whether these therapies have a protective effect against cognitive decline and whether women who experience early surgical menopause should be taking hormone replacement therapies afterward."