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How smoking raises premature menopause risk in women?

IANS May 14, 2024

Increasing tobacco smoking rates among women is a significant contributor to early menopause, which poses a significant health risk, warned doctors on 13 May.

Premature menopause is the cessation of menstruation before the age of 40 and can have profound implications for a woman's health and quality of life.

Jaishree Gajaraj, Senior Consultant of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, said that smoking accelerates premature menopause, which further raises the risk of developing osteoporosis, cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and psychological issues like depression and anxiety in women.

Nicotine, a primary component of tobacco, exerts detrimental effects on ovarian function by reducing the number of viable eggs and hastening the decline of ovarian reserve.

This premature depletion of follicles leads to an earlier onset of menopause. It not only impacts fertility but also contributes to the overall decline in ovarian function.

"Oestrogen has cardio-protective effects, and its abrupt reduction can lead to adverse changes in cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and vascular function," Dr Jaishree said.

Research shows that women who smoke go into menopause about a year earlier than non-smokers and as much as two years earlier for heavy smokers.

"It has been observed that smokers who are currently smoking will experience a younger menopause than smokers who have never smoked," said Vidyashri Kamath C, Consultant Obstetrics & Gynecologist, Mangalore.

The doctor noted that "smoking by-products decrease the quantity or quality of the ovarian follicles; it also causes changes in reproductive hormone levels during reproductive years; and smoke exposure during the intrauterine period may also affect the follicle pool and influence menopausal timing."

"Smokers are 35 per cent more likely to break a hip after menopause than non-smokers. Former smokers have a 15 per cent greater risk of hip fracture. How long you smoked will affect your risk of fracture more than how much you smoked," said Sophia Rodrigues, Consultant - OBG, Goa.

A recent study showed that women who enter menopause before the age of 40 are more likely to die young. Premature menopause is a critical issue and underscores the urgent need for comprehensive education and awareness, the experts said.

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