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Researchers analyzed data from more than 25,000 Swedish women who were followed for 16 years. Almost 6,000 women died in that period, and the team found that women who began menopause at age 40 died at a median age that was 1.3 years younger than those who began menopause at age 60.
Current smokers died at a median age that was 2.5 years younger than former smokers and those who never smoked.
Among current smokers, those who entered menopause at age 40 died at a median age that was 2.6 years younger than those who entered menopause at age 60. Menopause before age 40 is considered premature.
The study was published online Aug. 5 in the journal Menopause.
Smoking worsens the effects of estrogen deficiency in women who go through menopause at a younger age, the researchers explained. The team, led by Andrea Bellavia from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, also found that women with later menopause were more likely to be nonsmokers and to use hormone therapy.
While study wasn't designed to prove cause and effect, it "provides credible evidence that women can proactively work to delay menopause through various lifestyle choices such as stopping smoking," Dr. Wulf Utian, medical director of the North American Menopause Society, said in a journal news release.
"The ultimate benefit to them is that they may well extend their life expectancy," he said.
-- Robert Preidt
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SOURCE: Menopause, news release, Aug. 5, 2015