Smoking may bring on early menopause

July 21, 2007 - 0:0

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) -- Women who smoke are more likely to begin menopause before the age of 45 years, which puts them at increased risk of osteoporosis and heart disease, Norwegian researchers report.

Among a group of 2,123 women 59 to 60 years old, those who currently smoked were 59 percent more likely than non-smokers to have undergone early menopause, Dr. Thea F. Mikkelsen of the University of Oslo and her colleagues found. For the heaviest smokers, the risk of early menopause was nearly doubled. However, women who were smokers, but quit at least 10 years before menopause, were substantially less likely than current smokers to have stopped menstruating before age 45. There is evidence that smoking later in life makes a woman more likely to have early menopause, while smokers who quit before middle age may not be affected, Mikkelsen and her team note in the online journal BMC Public Health. They investigated the relationship further and determined if exposure to second-hand smoke might also influence the timing of menopause. The researchers found that nearly 10 percent of the women went through menopause before age 45. About 25 percent were current smokers, 28.7 percent were ex-smokers and 35.2 percent reported current passive exposure to smoke. As mentioned, the current smokers were 59 percent more likely to have reached menopause before age 45, while early menopause was nearly twice as common among the women who smoked the most. But women who had quit smoking at least a decade before menopause were 87 percent less likely than their peers who currently smoked to have gone through menopause early. Compared with married women, widows were also at increased risk of early menopause, as were women who said they were in poor health. More educated women were less likely to go into menopause early, but they were also less likely to be smokers. High social participation also cut early menopause risk. The researchers found no link between coffee or alcohol consumption or passive exposure to smoke and early menopause risk. ""The earlier a woman stops smoking,"" Mikkelsen and her team concluded, ""the more protection she derives with respect to an early onset of menopause.