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Earlier menopause tied to “Forever chemicals”

In a national sample of US women in their mid-40s to mid-50s, those with high serum levels of per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) were likely to enter menopause 2 years earlier than those with low levels of these chemicals.

That is, the median age of natural menopause was 52.8 years versus 50.8 years in women with high versus low serum levels of these chemicals in an analysis of data from more than 1100 women in the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation (SWAN) Multi-Pollutant Study (MPS), which excluded women with premature menopause (before age 40) or early menopause (before age 45).

“This study suggests that select PFAS serum concentrations are associated with earlier natural menopause, a risk factor for adverse health outcomes in later life,” Ning Ding, PhD, MPH, University of Michigan School of Public Health in Ann Arbor, and colleagues conclude in their article published online June 3 in the Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

“Even menopause a few years earlier than usual could have a significant impact on cardiovascular and bone health, quality of life, and overall health in general among women,” added senior author Sung Kyun Park, ScD, MPH, from the same institution, in a statement.

PFAS Don’t Break Down in the Body, Build Up With Time
PFAS have been widely used in many consumer and industrial products such as non-stick cookware, stain-repellent carpets, waterproof rain gear, microwave popcorn bags, and firefighting foam, the authors explain.

These have been dubbed “forever chemicals” because they do not degrade. Household water for an estimated 110 million Americans (one in three) may be contaminated with these chemicals, according to an Endocrine Society press release.

“PFAS are everywhere. Once they enter the body, they don’t break down and [they] build up over time,” said Ding.

“Because of their persistence in humans and potentially detrimental effects on ovarian function, it is important to raise awareness of this issue and reduce exposure to these chemicals,” he stressed.

Environmental Exposure and Accelerated Ovarian Aging
Earlier menopause has been associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, and earlier cardiovascular and overall mortality, and environmental exposure may accelerate ovarian aging, the authors write.

PFAS, especially the most studied types — perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) — are plausible endocrine-disrupting chemicals, but findings so far have been inconsistent.

A study of people in Ohio exposed to contaminated water found that women with earlier natural menopause had higher serum PFOA and PFOS levels (J Clin Endocriniol Metab. 2011;96:1747-53).

But in research based on National Health and Nutrition Survey Examination (NHANES) data, higher PFOA, PFOS, or perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA) levels were not linked to earlier menopause, although higher levels of perfluorohexane sulfonic acid (PFHxS) were (Environ Health Perspect. 2014;122:145-50).

Published by the Endocrine Society

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