U.S. and Chinese researchers recently conducted a study on women’s menstrual cycle according to which an irregular menstrual cycle may increase the risk of premature mortality.

For scientists, the menstrual cycle is a vital clinical sign for all women. A regular menstrual cycle testifies to the normal functioning of the hypothalamo-hypophyso-ovarian axis. In women, therefore, it is a clinical marker to understand the general state of health. However, an irregular menstrual cycle may be a sign of a disruption of this axis. In the past, researchers have associated disruption of the menstrual cycle with noncommunicable diseases. These include type 2 diabetes, ovarian cancer, coronary heart disease and mental health problems.

Attempting to explain this phenomenon, scientists favored the hypotheses of certain mechanisms possibly related to a disturbed hormonal environment. Examples include hyperinsulinemia (chronic inflammation) or metabolic disorders. The impact of such a cycle on mortality is relatively unknown, as evidenced by a limited availability of data on the subject. Thus, this recent study, published in the British Medical Journal on September 30, 2020, aimed to provide more data on the links between these two variables.

The data collected by researchers from Harvard, Michigan (USA) and Huazhong (China) universities came from the Nurse Health Study II. It is a cohort consisting mainly of nurses. Thus, the study does not involve a representative sample of the U.S. female population. The data are for the menstrual cycle of these women between the age of 14 and 17, between 18 and 22 years of age and finally between 29 and 46 years of age. According to the results, the risk of premature death, i.e. dying before age 70, increases by 73% for women with irregular cycles, or abnormally spaced cycles over time. This correlation is also stronger for women with cardiovascular disease or who are subject to smoking.

The U.S. Academy of Pediatrics has already raised the need to consider the menstrual cycle as a vital sign of adolescent health. However, the study makes it clear that this is not limited to adolescent girls but concerns all women. The researchers believe that health care workers need to include more of the characteristics of the menstrual cycle in women throughout their reproductive years. The goal? Avoid long-term health problems by changing the lifestyle of women at risk.

Serena Page

A journalism student at the University of Florida, Serena writes mostly about health and health-related subjects. On her time off, she enjoys binge-watching her favorite shows on Netflix or going on a weekend get-away.