A new study presented at the 26th European Congress of Endocrinology in Sweden has found that women who enter menopause before the age of 40 are more likely to die young. However, the study also showed that the risk can be lowered with hormone replacement therapy (HRT) which is the most common treatment.

While most women experience menopause between the ages of 45 and 55, about 1 per cent experience menopause before the age of 40 years, known as premature menopause or premature ovarian insufficiency (POI). It increases the risk of long-term health problems such as heart disease. 

The reason behind this remains largely unknown but can be brought on spontaneously or by some medical treatments such as chemotherapy or by surgically removing the ovaries.

What is premature menopause?
Premature menopause, also known as premature ovarian failure, is a condition in which a woman's ovaries stop functioning before the age of 40. This can lead to a decrease in estrogen levels and ultimately cause the cessation of menstrual periods and the inability to conceive.

Symptoms of premature menopause:
Irregular or skipped

Hot flashes
Night sweats 
Vaginal dryness
Mood swings 
Difficulty sleeping
Women may also experience physical changes such as thinning hair, dry skin, and decreased breast fullness.

The study:
The team from the University of Oulu, in Finland, examined 5,817 women who were diagnosed with spontaneous or surgical premature ovarian insufficiency in Finland, between 1988 and 2017, and compared them with 22,859 women without POI.

The results revealed spontaneous premature ovarian insufficiency more than twice raised the risk of dying of any cause of heart disease, and more than four times from cancer.

On the other hand, the risk of all-cause and cancer mortality halved in women who used HRT drugs for more than six months. Further, women with early menopause from surgery were not found to have any added mortality risk.

“Our findings suggest specific attention should be paid to the health of women with spontaneous premature ovarian insufficiency to decrease excess mortality,” said Hilla Haapakoski, a doctoral student at the University of Oulu, in Finland.
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