(TeleManagement) A woman’s smoking habits, her weight, the number of children she bears, and even her religion may affect the age at which she reaches menopause, according to a study by researchers at New York University School of Medicine.
The investigators found that women who smoked more than 10 cigarettes per day were 40% more likely to enter menopause earlier than nonsmokers. Current smokers in the study of 4,694 women who were observed for more than 5 years reached menopause an average of 9 months earlier than nonsmokers.
Women who had three or more children experienced menopause nearly a year later than women who had never had children. And Jewish women experienced menopause about 8 months later than Catholic women.
The authors concede that their results showing that Jewish women tended to have later menopause should be interpreted cautiously. “Nevertheless, the result is intriguing because Jewish women carry mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes more often than other populations and are thus predisposed to breast and ovarian cancers,” they write. “The possibility that these genetic predispositions involve changes in ovarian function may deserve further investigation,” they wrote.
Obesity, which has been linked to later menopause in other studies, was also shown in this study to be associated with slightly delayed menopause.
The researchers noted that there were several limitations to their study: subjects were mostly white, their recall when answering questionnaires could have been faulty, and the participants were somewhat self-selected – they chose to answer the questionnaires, while others chose not to. These limitations mean that the study results may not be applicable to all women.