Earlier this year, I wrote a sharepost about some worrisome findings about women who smoke. Several studies linked smoking (as well as breathing second-hand smoke) with increased odds of a women going through early menopause, which can result in the increased risk of heart disease and bone disease. Now, a new meta-analysis echoes these concerns and should provide another good reason for women who smoke to ditch the cigarettes.
As reported by Reuters Health, this meta-analysis found that smoking may have an effect on when women hit menopause. In analyzing six studies that included 6,000 women from the United States, Poland, Turkey and Iran, Dr. Volodymyr Dvornyk from the University of Hong Kong found that non-smokers on average reached menopause when they were between the ages of 46 and 51, while in four of the six studies, smokers reached menopause on average between 43 and 50. The study was published in the peer-reviewed journal Menopause, which is published by the North American Menopause Society.
Dvornyk and his research team also had a similar finding when analyzing five other studies that grouped women in categories entitled “early” menopause (before the age of 50-51) and “late” menopause (after the age of 50-51). The researchers looked at data from 43,000 women who participated in those five studies and found that smokers were 43% more likely than those who don’t smoke to have early menopause.
Scientists believe these findings are important because the age at which women go through menopause may influence not only their risk of osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease, but also breast cancer, diabetes, obesity, Alzheimer’s disease, and early death. It’s believed that smoking may alter the way that women’s bodies process estrogen while cigarette smoke may kill eggs.
While these studies do provide some powerful findings, some questions still arise. “As the researchers themselves have noted, this study does have some limitations and the link between smoking and early menopause is still speculative,” Nursingtimes.net reported. For instance, many of the studies that were reviewed didn’t detail the women’s smoking habits (such as duration) and age at natural menopause. Furthermore, there wasn’t any data about whether stopping smoking would affect the age at which menopause occurs (although it will affect overall health).
So what if Dvornyk’s study gives you the needed push to stop smoking? The American Cancer Society suggests four factors are especially critical to quitting:
- Making the decision to quit.
- Setting a quit date and choosing a plan to help you quit. The quit date should give you adequate time to prepare and come up with a plan. If you’re planning on using a prescription drug to help you quit, you’ll need to talk to your doctor prior to your quit day. Additionally, some drugs such as Zyban and Chantix require you to start taking the medication a week prior to your quit day.
- Dealing with withdrawal – People who quit smoking face two challenges – the physical and the mental. Nicotine replacement and other medicines can help reduce the physical symptoms associated with quitting smoking. You still will have to deal with strong urges to smoke because your mind will associate smoking with many common daily activities (such as watching television or drinking coffee).
- Focusing on a maintenance program so you don’t start smoking again. The American Cancer Society suggests that smokers who have quit should plan on what they’re going to do when temptation rears its ugly head. If you do succumb, the organization has some helpful advice: “The difference between a slip and a relapse is within your control. A slip is a one-time mistake that is quickly corrected. A relapse is going back to smoking. You can use the slip as an excuse to go back to smoking, or you can look at what went wrong and renew your commitment to staying away from smoking for good.”
The American Cancer Society also provides some additional information on quitting smoking that may be helpful to those who need it.
Published On: November 18, 2011