‘1 in 20 women’ hit by early menopause: Doctors baffled at rising numbers of under-40s affected

Mail Online

United Kingdom

By Jenny Hope
Last updated at 7:42 AM on 7th July 2011

More than one in 20 women go through an early menopause which puts them at greater risk of heart attack, stroke and bone disease in later life, warn researchers.

Higher than expected numbers stop having periods before the age of 40 for no known medical reason, a study has found.

Around 6 per cent of women had an unexplained premature menopause, leaving them infertile at an early age.

This figure is much higher than previous estimates – dating back to the Eighties – of as low as 1 per cent.

A further 2 per cent had gone through an early menopause due to cancer treatment or surgery to remove the ovaries.

Women from the lowest social class are almost three times as likely to experience menopause before the age of 40 than those from the highest social class.

The study, at Imperial College London, is one of the most comprehensive to be carried out into premature menopause. In the UK, the average age of the menopause is 51 years, when women’s natural supply of oestrogen dwindles and ovaries run out of eggs.

The lack of oestrogen means women lose their natural protection against heart disease and thinning bones.

Dr Rumana Islam, who carried out the study with Dr Rufus Cartwright, looked at the records of nearly 5,000 women, all of whom were born in Britain in a single week in 1958.

They followed up with them eight times, and at age 50 asked them about the date and cause of their menopause and their quality of life.

Bad habit: Smokers were most at risk of early menopause

A total of 7.4 per cent had gone through the menopause before the age of 40, with smokers and women from the lowest social class most at risk.

Almost one-fifth had had surgical removal of the ovaries, or their ovaries had stopped functioning after chemotherapy treatment. But nearly 6 per cent had ‘unexplained’ early menopause, said Dr Islam.

Women who had an early menopause were more than twice as likely to say they had a poor quality of life ‘affecting vitality, physical function, mental health, and general health perceptions’.

Revealing the findings to the European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology, Dr Islam said the ‘burden of physical and psychological ill-health’ imposed by early menopause meant hysterectomy (where the womb and ovaries are surgically removed) as a treatment for period problems should be avoided wherever possible.

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Estrogen mimickers in the enviornment – multi generational use of birth control pills – the largest uncontrolled medical experiment in the history or womenAnyone read Margaret Atwood’s ‘The Handmaids Tale’? Get the movie – a whole generation of women rendered infertile.

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Author: Leslie Carol Botha

Author, publisher, radio talk show host and internationally recognized expert on women's hormone cycles. Social/political activist on Gardasil the HPV vaccine for adolescent girls. Co-author of "Understanding Your Mood, Mind and Hormone Cycle." Honorary advisory board member for the Foundation for the Study of Cycles and member of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research.