No Butts About It – The Impact of Smoking on Menopause

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Here’s some smoking hot news for you! In a recent research study published online in the journal Menopause, researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania report the first evidence showing that smoking causes earlier signs of menopause. The study was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, Perelman School of Medicine Translational and Clinical Research Center, and the Perelman School of Medicine Center of Excellence for Diversity.

In an announcement of the study’s findings, it was noted that although previous studies have shown smoking hastens menopause by approximately one to two years regardless of race or genetic background, this study is the first of its kind to demonstrate that genetic background is significantly associated with a further increased risk of menopause in some white women who smoke. In the case of heavy smokers, this can be up to nine years earlier than average in white women with certain genetic variations. Genetic variation refers to diversity in gene frequencies, and can refer to differences between individuals or to differences between populations. In this case, we’re talking about differences between individual women in the study. The genetic variants were present in 62 percent of white women in the study population.

“We already know that smoking causes early menopause in women of all races, but these new results show that if you are a white smoker with these specific genetic variants, your risk of entering menopause at any given time increases dramatically,” said the study’s lead author, Samantha F. Butts, MD, MSCE (yes, that’s really her last name), assistant professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Penn Medicine.

Smoking can also make menopausal symptoms more severe. No if ands or butts–smoking is not cool, especially if it is bringing on hot flashes that rival global warming.

Dr. Sarah Nyante of the US National Cancer Institute  released a study that found that women smokers are 19% more susceptible to develop breast cancer after menopause than women who don’t smoke after menopause.

Have you put down that cigarette yet? Smokefree.gov  has four more reasons to consider living your life smoke-free:

Aging Skin

In addition to its effects on menopause, smoking can do a number on your skin. Smoking can cause skin to be dry and lose elasticity, leading to wrinkles and stretch marks. A smoker’s skin tone may become dull and grayish. Let’s face it (pun intended), it’s simply not fashionably chic; a grayish skin tone, brownish fingers from tobacco stains and yellowish teeth clash horribly.

Belly Fat

Most women find that they suddenly become members of the sisterhood of the shrinking pants during menopause.  As if that is not frustrating enough, many smokers find that those menopausal muffin tops (the belly fat dripping over your pants) are getting bigger and they have less muscle tone than non-smokers. In addition, smokers have much more difficult time controlling diabetes.

Lower estrogen levels

Did you know that smoking lowers a female’s level of estrogen? There are so many other symptoms of low estrogen for example, dry skin, thinning hair, and memory problems. BTW if you or someone you love is interested in getting preggers – definitely put down that cigarette.  Women who smoke have a harder time getting pregnant and having a healthy baby.

Other smoke-related health problems

The average age for onset of menopause (when you have been without a period for 12 consecutive months) is 51. According to the North American Menopause Society (NAMS), during and after menopause, your risk of other health conditions rises, and smoking increases that risk even more, including:  Heart disease , stroke, breast cancer and diabetes. There are so many other smoke –related health issues that you put yourself at increased risk for like: decreased bone density, rheumatoid arthritis, gum disease, ulcers, post-surgical complications, and depression.

The good news

Now are you ready to quit?  Margery L.S. Gass, MD, NCMP, executive director of NAMS, has some good news to share with us.  She notes that women who quit smoking before age 40 erase most of the risk of early death. The risk of stroke and heart disease drops quickly after you stop smoking. (The risk of cancers drops more slowly.) Women who quit by age 50 buy back about six years, and those who quit by age 60 gains about four years of the decade they’d lose if they didn’t quit.

I don’t know about you, but many women hope to kick butt when it comes to menopause. If you’re a smoker, this might just give you the incentive to kick the habit for good.

Suffering in silence is OUT! Reaching out is IN!

After struggling with her own severe menopause symptoms and doing years of research, Ellen resolved to share what she learned from experts and her own trial and error. Her goal was to replace the confusion, embarrassment, and symptoms millions of women go through–before, during, and after menopause–with the medically sound solutions she discovered. Her passion to become a “sister” and confidant to all women fueled Ellen’s first book, Shmirshky: the pursuit of hormone happiness. As a result of the overwhelming response from her burgeoning audiences and followers’ requests for empowering information they could trust, Ellen’s weekly blog, Menopause MondaysTM, was born.

  • 23 years and counting. 😉

    • Ellen Dolgen

      WOW! You Go Girl!!!

  • Hey Carol Cassara I’m with you….27 years and counting. One of the best decisions I ever made!

    • Ellen Dolgen

      How great Kathy!

  • I quit for two months then started back again, I’ve been so disappointed in myself. I won’t give up though.

    • Ellen Dolgen

      Dearest Rena,
      Do not look back….just look forward……no point to it. Trust me, I have a million things I wish I had done differently! My father used to say it is a waste of time to be a member of “the should-a, could-a club!” Go for it. You CAN do it! Good Luck!

  • How about second-hand smoke, will it affect me? I don’t smoke but most of the people around me do.

    • Ellen Dolgen

      That is an excellent question. I don’t have data on that, however, from what I have heard second hand smoke is not great for anyone!

  • I’m 105 days smoke free and quite proud of myself.

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