I was intrigued to read the story in the newspapers last week that 1 in 20 women are hit by an early menopause. Not by the story itself, as that has been increasingly apparent in the last few years, but by this latest study which was done at Imperial College London is one of the most comprehensive to be carried out into premature menopause.
In the UK, the average age of menopause is 51, but this report has shown that higher than expected numbers of women stop having periods before the age of 40. The study says that there is no expected reason for this, and that this figure is much higher than previous estimates, which go back to the 1980s and were as low as 1%. Interestingly there is a class bias here as women from the lowest social class are almost 3 times as likely to have experienced the menopause before the age of 49 than those from the highest social class.
Almost 5000 women’s records were studied but the lead researchers, Dr Rumana Islam and Dr Rufus Cartwright, were unable to explain why this phenomena was occurring. Premature menopause carries health risks. In the USA, women who experienced menopause before the age of 46 had more than twice the risk of having a heart attack, stroke or other cardiovascular problem.
But what I found interesting about all of this is that no mention was made anywhere of something that Dr John Lee observed many, many years ago which is that we now have several generations of women who have been exposed to synthetic hormones via the contraceptive pill and HRT. In a seminar I facilitated with Dr Lee in London, he was asked about a young woman who was experiencing a very early menstrual cycle and he postulated that before the advent of the pill and HRT women had not been exposed to synthetic hormones in this way and that it was bound to have an effect on their hormonal health. That it would have an effect on the woman immediately taking hormones is apparent, but what he was suggesting was that this could be passed down to her daughter and then her daughter’s daughter and so on.
To me this certainly makes sense and since the advent of synthetic hormones we have become more aware of the dangers attached of them. To this we have also added the weight of the environmental xenoestrogens that are now so common. We may not know the exact reasons for this rise in premature menopause but we can certainly use the information we already have to make an educated guess. Dr Lee was very clear about the health impact of oestrogen dominance and synthetic hormones tip that balance even further in the direction of hormone imbalance.