Irregular Menstrual Cycles Tied to Shorter Lifespans

Irregular menstrual cycles may be associated with an early death, a new study suggests.

Researchers followed 79,505 women participating in a large long-term health study. The women reported on the length and regularity of their cycles at ages 14 to 17, 18 to 22, and 29 to 46 years. At the start, none had a history of cardiovascular disease, cancer or diabetes. The study is in BMJ.

Over 24 years of follow-up, there were 1,975 deaths before age 70, including 894 from cancer and 172 from cardiovascular disease.

At all ages, compared with women with regular periods of average length (26 to 31 days), those with irregular or longer cycles were at higher risk for early death. For example, women who always had irregular periods at ages 18 to 22 had a 37 percent increased risk of early mortality, and those with cycle lengths of 40 days or more had a 34 percent increased risk.

Younger women had an increased risk for death from cancer but not from cardiovascular disease, while in older women the risk for cardiovascular disease death was higher.

“Importantly, these associations are not restricted to polycystic ovary syndrome or other gynecological or endocrine conditions that might result in irregular menstrual periods,” said the senior author, Dr. Jorge E. Chavarro, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard.

The study controlled for diet, physical exercise, anxiety, depression, and age at menarche or menopause.

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