A new study, whose findings appear in the Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, explores the association between exposure to a certain type of chemicals with hormonal cycles in women and concludes that they can cause abnormalities.
More specifically, the researchers found that exposure to Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substance (PFAS) can cause menopause symptoms to occur two years earlier, which can then cause other health conditions in women ranging from the heart of the health and bone health.
PFAS or Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances are artificially made chemicals that are used in a variety of products used in everyday life. For instance, firefighting foams, nonstick products used in the kitchen and in restaurants, and ‘water-proof’ items, all contain PFAS chemicals.
In addition to being present in items used every day, studies have also found that PFAS can also contaminate water. Statistically, over one hundred million people in the United States, which is one in three Americans consume water that has been contaminated with PFAS every day.
Ning Ding, from the University of Michigan School of Public Health in Ann Arbor, Mich, is the leading author of the study, explained that the primary problem with these chemicals is that the body is unable to break them. This means that once PFAS enters the body of the person, they can stay for a very long period of time and cause health issues.
“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.” Ding further added.
For exploring the impact of exposure to PFAS further on the health of women, the team of researchers led by Ding examined the data of one thousand one hundred and twenty women, all of whom were in their mid to late thirties sourced from the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation, which was a seventeen year-long study.
After assessing the data on the participants including their exposure to PFAS chemicals from water as well as from different products and taking blood samples for estimating the presence of the chemicals in the bodies of the women, the researchers discovered that women with higher levels of PFAS chemicals in their body experienced menopause symptoms two years earlier.
Sung Kyun Park, from the University of Michigan School of Public Health, who was the other corresponding author of the study, explained that even though two years may not seem like a big difference to most people, it can lead to an increased risk of a number of different conditions.
For instance, previous studies have linked early menopause in women to a much higher risk of bone loss or a health condition called osteoporosis, which has been associated with lack of estrogen in the body. Bone loss can cause difficulty in normal movements, severe joint pain, disability, and greater chances of bone-related fractures and injuries.
Secondly, low estrogen levels in the body can also increase the risk of heart disease and mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression, and stress.
Read more on the management of menopause symptoms here.
Therefore, health experts suggest consulting a doctor as soon as possible if symptoms of early menopause including hot flashes, mood swings, night sweats, irregular periods, vaginal dryness, and loss of sex drive or libido occur so that testing or screening for related health conditions and preventive measures can be taken at the right time.
Though there are a number of treatment options for the prevention of menopause-related complications, doctors usually have to examine the overall health of the women and take medical history in order to make up a plan that can effectively tackle the condition.