Are female carriers of the apolipoprotein E ε4 allele at greater risk of developing Alzheimer disease than men?
In this meta-analysis of 27 independent research studies with 58 000 participants, women and men with 1 copy of apolipoprotein E ε4 did not show a difference in risk of Alzheimer disease from age 55 to 85 years. However, these women were at increased risk vs men between ages 65 and 75 years.
Sex-specific treatments for cognitive decline and Alzheimer disease may need to be initiated a younger age, especially in those who carry an apolipoprotein E ε4 allele.
It is unclear whether female carriers of the apolipoprotein E (APOE) ε4 allele are at greater risk of developing Alzheimer disease (AD) than men, and the sex-dependent association of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and APOE has not been established.
To determine how sex and APOE genotype affect the risks for developing MCI and AD.
Twenty-seven independent research studies in the Global Alzheimer’s Association Interactive Network with data on nearly 58 000 participants.
Non-Hispanic white individuals with clinical diagnostic and APOE genotype data.
Data Extraction and Synthesis
Homogeneous data sets were pooled in case-control analyses, and logistic regression models were used to compute risks.
Main Outcomes and Measures
Age-adjusted odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals for developing MCI and AD were calculated for men and women across APOE genotypes.
Participants were men and women between ages 55 and 85 years. Across data sets most participants were white, and for many participants, racial/ethnic information was either not collected or not known. Men (OR, 3.09; 95% CI, 2.79-3.42) and women (OR, 3.31; CI, 3.03-3.61) with the APOE ε3/ε4 genotype from ages 55 to 85 years did not show a difference in AD risk; however, women had an increased risk compared with men between the ages of 65 and 75 years (women, OR, 4.37; 95% CI, 3.82-5.00; men, OR, 3.14; 95% CI, 2.68-3.67; P = .002). Men with APOE ε3/ε4 had an increased risk of AD compared with men with APOE ε3/ε3. The APOE ε2/ε3 genotype conferred a protective effect on women (OR, 0.51; 95% CI, 0.43-0.61) decreasing their risk of AD more (P value = .01) than men (OR, 0.71; 95% CI, 0.60-0.85). There was no difference between men with APOE ε3/ε4 (OR, 1.55; 95% CI, 1.36-1.76) and women (OR, 1.60; 95% CI, 1.43-1.81) in their risk of developing MCI between the ages of 55 and 85 years, but women had an increased risk between 55 and 70 years (women, OR, 1.43; 95% CI, 1.19-1.73; men, OR, 1.07; 95% CI, 0.87-1.30; P = .05). There were no significant differences between men and women in their risks for converting from MCI to AD between the ages of 55 and 85 years. Individuals with APOE ε4/ε4 showed increased risks vs individuals with ε3/ε4, but no significant differences between men and women with ε4/ε4 were seen.
Conclusions and Relevance
Contrary to long-standing views, men and women with the APOE ε3/ε4 genotype have nearly the same odds of developing AD from age 55 to 85 years, but women have an increased risk at younger ages.
Neu SC, Pa J, Kukull W, Beekly D, Kuzma A, Gangadharan P, Wang L, Romero K, Arneric SP, Redolfi A, Orlandi D, Frisoni GB, Au R, Devine S, Auerbach S, Espinosa A, Boada M, Ruiz A, Johnson SC, Koscik R, Wang J, Hsu W, Chen Y, Toga AW. Apolipoprotein E Genotype and Sex Risk Factors for Alzheimer DiseaseA Meta-analysis. JAMA Neurol. 2017;74(10):1178–1189. doi:10.1001/jamaneurol.2017.2188
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