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Everyday Chemicals Trigger Early Menopause

CU School of Medicine


AURORA, Colo. – Women who are exposed to certain chemicals are more likely to experience menopause at a younger age, according to a newly published study by a researcher from the University of Colorado School of Medicine at the Anschutz Medical Campus.

The study, published in the journal PLOS One, reports that women exposed to certain chemicals experienced menopause 1.9 years to 3.8 years earlier than women with lower levels of the same chemicals. Women exposed to these same chemicals were up to six times more likely to be menopausal than non-exposed women.

Natalia Grindler, MD, an instructor and fellow in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and her fellow authors reviewed data collected by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey between 1999 and 2008, covering 31,575 women. The survey, administered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, covers a cross section of the U.S. population.

The researchers evaluated the levels of 111 potential chemicals present in the women surveyed and found that 15 of those chemicals, which are used in cosmetics, plastics and household cleaners, could be causing women to go through menopause early. The chemicals associated with cases of early menopause included phthalates, polychlorinated biphenyls, surfactants and organophosphate pesticides.

“Our study shows there is a clinically significant association between levels of these chemicals and the age at menopause in a large cross section of U.S. women,” Grindler said. “Early menopause is not the only negative health impact. Any early decline in ovarian function could increase rates of infertility and lead to earlier development of cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis and other medical problems among women.”

Avoiding exposure to products with these chemicals is nearly impossible, so a greater understanding of how these chemicals affect reproductive health and interact with genetic predispositions and environmental factors is needed, Grindler said.

“We support the use of an approach that captures lifestyle, behavior and other exposures from conception onward,” Grindler said. “The health of future generations is at risk and without further research in this area those born today could be affected in decades to come.”

About the University of Colorado School of Medicine

Faculty at the University of Colorado School of Medicine work to advance science and improve care. These faculty members include physicians, educators and scientists at University of Colorado Health, Children’s Hospital Colorado, Denver Health, National Jewish Health, and the Denver Veterans Affairs Medical Center. The school is located on the Anschutz Medical Campus, one of four campuses in the University of Colorado system. To learn more about the medical school’s care, education, research and community engagement, visit its web site.