Researchers Link Smoking to Early Onset of Menopause

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • Both of my parents were smokers. My father finally quit when Mom had a suspicious lump in her breast when I was a child. (The lump turned out to be nothing; however, Dad held to his pledge to stop smoking.) Mom, on the other hand, kept smoking until the late 1990s, when she was diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).  I never have smoked, and as I’ve grown older, I find that I increasingly hate the odor of cigarette smoke as well as its tendency to permeate any fabric (clothes! furniture!) with which it comes into contact.

    It turns out that several studies are indicating that cigarette smoke – including second-hand smoke – may result in a woman going through early menopause, which puts her at increased risk of osteoporosis and heart disease.  Here are the studies:

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    • Reuter’s reported a study out of the University of Oslo that found that women who smoke are more likely to begin menopause before the age of 45. Researchers studied a group of 2,123 women who were 59-60 years old. They found that participants who smoked were 59 percent more likely than non-smokers to have had early menopause. In fact, the risk of early menopause nearly doubled for participants who were classified as heavy smokers. Additionally, participants who managed to quit smoking 10 years before menopause were substantially less likely than current smokers to have gone through menopause before the age of 45. The study also found that almost 10 percent of the study’s participants went through menopause before the age of 45. Of those, about 25 percent were classified as current smokers while 28.7 percent were ex-smokers. In addition, 35.2 percent said they had been passively exposed to smoke.
    • ScienceDirect reported on a study by Massachusetts General Hospital researchers that found that smoking can lead to premature ovarian failure. “Women who smoke undergo menopause earlier, and we've correlated this with exposure to a class of chemicals in tobacco smoke that accelerate the death of egg cells in the ovaries,” said Dr. Jonathan Tilly, who was principal investigator of this study. The researchers, who researched the effects of cigarette smoke on mice, found that chemicals called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) that are derived from cigarette smoke bind to a receptor called AHR that is inside the egg cells in ovaries and triggers the expression of a Bax gene within an egg’s nucleus. The high levels of Bax initiate a suicide command, which causes the egg to die.
    • MediLinePlus reported a new study that men who smoke in the presence of their pregnant partner may result in their daughter being at risk in later life for early menopause. The Japanese researchers surveyed 1,000 Japanese women who were past menopause and who were visiting clinics for gynecologic exams. Women whose fathers smoked while the women were in utero reached menopause an average of 13 months earlier than women whose fathers were not smokers. However, researchers could not tell whether the early onset of the daughter’s menopause was caused by the father smoking during pregnancy or early childhood. These researchers also noted that women who smoked hit menopause approximately 14 months earlier than those who didn’t smoke.

    Nevertheless, these studies provide additional reasons for everyone to quit – or avoid – smoking.

Published On: June 08, 2011