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Smoking Can Speed Menopause for Some Women

Image: Woman Smoking
A new study finds that for some women, smoking is associated with early menopause. Andrew Burton / Getty Images

As if women needed another reason to kick the habit, a new study shows that smoking can speed the ticking of the biological clock, hastening the onset of menopause.

Researchers found that heavy smoking white women with a certain genetic mutation entered menopause nearly nine years early, according to the study published in Menopause. That particular mutation occurred in about 7 percent of the white women in the study.

The study was designed to look at the effects of specific genes that interact with substances in tobacco smoke, said Dr. Samantha Butts, the study’s lead author and an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

“A lot of toxins are inactive when entering the body,” she explained. “Some of these genes are ones that make inert toxins more toxic.”

The ongoing study followed 410 women aged 35 to 47 for 14 years. Half the women were African-American and half whites of European origin.

Overall, current smokers in the study entered menopause a year younger than their non-smoking counterparts. Though the findings did not extend to the African-American women, Butts believes researchers will eventually find other genes to explain smoking’s impact on the fertility of black women.

“We know that smoking significantly damages eggs,” Butts said. “This paper was designed to shed light on the fact that every woman is not at the same risk. Some are at exquisitely higher risk.”