17/10/2011 11:20 BST | Updated 17/12/2011 05:12 GMT

Study: Women Who Smoke Hit Menopause Earlier

Women who smoke reach menopause at an earlier age than non-smokers, according to new research from the University of Hong Kong.

The study of 6,000 women in the US, Poland, Turkey and Iran found that those who were non-smokers went through the menopause between 46 to 51 years old, in comparison with 43 to 50 years old for ladies who light up.

Early (and late) menopause carries health risks, including a higher risk of bone and heart disease, as well as breast cancer. Out of the women pooled in this study, female smokers were 43% more likely to hit early menopause than those who didn’t smoke.

“Our results give further evidence that smoking is significantly associated with earlier (age at menopause) and provide yet another justification for women to avoid this habit," says author Volodymyr Dvornyk, from the University of Hong Kong.

“General consensus is that earlier menopause is likely to be associated with the larger number and higher risk of postmenopausal health problems, such as osteoporosis, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes mellitus, obesity, Alzheimer's disease, and others,” added Dvornvk.

Scientists believe that certain components of cigarettes potentially kill off eggs and oestrogen, halting the woman’s ovaries production of eggs. This consequently leads to an earlier menopause.

However, the study didn’t take into account how many cigarettes the smoking women had per day or how long they’d been smoking for.

They also didn’t investigate other lifestyle factors, such as alcohol consumption, the number of children the women had or the age the women conceived their children, meaning the findings still have a long way to go until concrete links between smoking and menopause are concluded.