Women who smoke and those who have been exposed to second hand smoke have more problems getting pregnant and are more likely to reach menopause at an earlier age than women who never smoked or those who were exposed to the least amount of second hand smoke. A new investigation from Roswell Park Cancer Institute reached these conclusions after researchers analyzed data on nearly 89,000 women in the U.S. Women who reported smoking were 14 percent more likely to have infertility (meaning that they were unable to get pregnant for a year) and 26 percent more likely to reach menopause earlier than women who didn’t smoke. Those exposed to the most second hand smoke had an 18 percent increased risk of infertility and reached menopause at an earlier age than women exposed to the least amount of second hand smoke. The analysis didn’t prove that exposure to smoke was responsible for infertility or earlier menopause, although the researchers adjusted the data to account for other factors that could lead to infertility or early menopause.
My take? As lead researcher Andrew Hyland, Ph.D. acknowledged, earlier investigations have linked smoking to reproductive problems in women, but few looked at associations between second hand smoke, infertility and early menopause. But these are not the only smoke-related risks women face. Some studies have suggested that teenage girls who smoke are at increased risk of developing breast cancer before menopause, and by age 50 women who began smoking as teens had a risk of breast cancer that was 80 percent higher than others who chose not to smoke so early in life. In addition, women with a family history of breast and ovarian cancer may increase their own risks of developing these cancers if they smoke. In addition, women smokers are 1.5 times more likely to develop lung cancer than men. If you’re a female smoker, these unique risks to women are all compelling reasons to make a New Year’s resolution to quit now.