Older women’s low oestrogen levels could be linked to risk of Covid-19 death

An older woman’s oestrogen levels may be linked to her chances of dying from Covid-19 with higher levels of the hormone seemingly protective against severe infection, research suggests.

Swedish scientists analysed data from 14,685 women of whom 227 (2 per cent) had been previously diagnosed with breast cancer and were on oestrogen blocker drugs to curb the risk of cancer recurrence.

Another 2,535 (17 per cent) were taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to boost their oestrogen levels to try and relieve menopausal symptoms.

The remaining 11,923 (81 per cent) women acted as the comparison group as they were not on any type of treatment, either to enhance or reduce their oestrogen levels.

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Compared with no oestrogen treatment, the odds of dying from Covid-19 were twice as high among women on oestrogen blockers, but 54 per cent lower among women on HRT.

The research team said it may be worth exploring supplemental hormone treatment to curb the severity of Covid infection in women who have already gone through the menopause.

The observational study cannot establish cause, but the researchers conclude: “This study shows an association between oestrogen levels and Covid-19 death.

Consequently, drugs increasing oestrogen levels may have a role in therapeutic efforts to alleviate Covid-19 severity in postmenopausal women and could be studied in randomised control trials.”

Stephen Evans, professor of pharmacoepidemiology at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said: “The findings are apparently dramatic. However, it must be remembered that there is a long history of observational studies, especially in relation to hormone therapy, making dramatic claims of benefits that have not been confirmed in randomised trials.”

The research is published in the journal BMJ Open.

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