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Study: Early menopause doubles risk of osteoporosis

Wednesday April 25, 2012
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Women who go through menopause early are nearly twice as likely to suffer from osteoporosis later in life, according to a study, and also face higher risks of mortality and bone fracture.

Researchers in Sweden examined the long-term effects of early menopause on mortality, risk of fragility, fracture and osteoporosis. The cohort of 390 white, north European women was recruited in 1977 at age 48.

The researchers divided the women into two categories: those whose menopause began before age 47 and those whose menopause began at age 47 or later. They measured the women’s bone mineral density after recruitment for the study and again at age 77 for the 198 women who remained available for follow-up.

At age 77, 56% of women with early menopause had osteoporosis, compared with 30% of women with late menopause.

Women who started menopause early also had a higher risk of fragility fracture and of mortality. The mortality rate was 52.4% in the early menopause group, compared with 35.2% in the late menopause group. The fracture incidence rate was 44.3% in the early menopause group, compared with 30.7% in the late menopause group.

"The results of this study suggest that early menopause is a significant risk factor for osteoporosis, fragility fracture and mortality in a long-term, perspective," Ola Svejme, orthopedic surgeon at the Skåne University Hospital in Sweden and lead author of the study, said in a news release. "To our knowledge, this is the first prospective study with a follow-up period of more than three decades."

The study is scheduled for publication in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

"The study’s strength is the length of time the women were observed," Pierre Martin-Hirsch, the journal’s deputy editor-in-chief, said in the news release. "The higher mortality rate in women with an early menopause needs to be explored further as many other factors could affect this such as medication, nutrition, smoking and alcohol consumption."

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