Women's risk of osteoporosis in later life ‘doubles after early menopause’
23:28 GMT, 24 April 2012
Women who go through the menopause early are almost twice as likely to suffer from osteoporosis in later life, a study suggests.
Those who stop having periods before the age of 47 for no medical reason were also found to be at a higher risk of breaking bones and dying earlier.
In the UK, the average age at which women begin the menopause is 51.
A study has found those who had their menopause before 47 were at a higher risk of thinning bones and dying earlier
The loss of oestrogen means women lose their natural protection against heart disease and thinning bones – but the risks when this happens earlier have seldom been quantified.
The findings come from Swedish research that began in 1977, when 390 white North Europeans aged 48 were recruited for the Malmo Perimenopausal Study and divided into two groups: those who had started the menopause before turning 47, and those who had not.
Three decades later, 92 of the women had died and 100 had relocated or declined further participation. The remaining 198 had their bone mineral density measured.
The study found that at the age of 77, some 56 per cent of women who had experienced an earlier menopause had osteoporosis, compared with 30 per cent of women in the other group. Mortality and fracture rates were also higher in the early group.
The study did not look at women who had gone through an early menopause because of cancer treatment or surgery to remove the ovaries.
Ola Svejme of the Skne University Hospital in Malmo said: ‘The results suggest that early menopause is a significant risk factor for osteoporosis, fragility fracture and mortality in a long-term perspective. To our knowledge, this is the first study with a follow-up period of more than three decades.’
The research is published today in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.