Menopause can change more than your physical characteristics and mood. It can also raise the risk of certain long-term health problems.
It’s a downright sobering fact that postmenopausal women have a higher risk of osteoporosis, also called “brittle bone” disease, coronary artery disease and cancer.
It’s not the onset of menopause per se that “causes” cancer, but rather that menopause is traditionally associated with growing older and a person’s risk increases with age. There are, of course, some caveats.
“Starting menopause after age 55 increases a woman’s risk of breast cancer and endometrial cancer. That’s probably because she’s been exposed to more estrogen,” says Therese Bevers, M.D., medical director of MD Anderson’s Cancer Prevention Center.
She explained, “During a woman’s menstrual cycle, estrogen stimulates the uterus and breast tissue, so the more menstrual periods a woman has, the longer these tissues are exposed to estrogen.”
Starting menopause later can also increase a woman’s risk of ovarian cancer. Researchers suspect that this may be because these women have had more ovulations, she said.
You can’t stop the aging clock, but you can take action to slow it down and substantially reduce your risk of cancer, heart disease and adult-onset diabetes.
Researchers at the University of Arizona in Tucson tested the American Cancer Society’s Guidelines on Nutrition and Physical Activity for Cancer Prevention and found postmenopausal women who faithfully followed the guidelines had a 17 percent lower risk for cancer incidence, 20 percent lower risk for cancer-related death, and 27 percent lower risk for death from all causes.
The results of the University of Arizona study were published today in Cancer Prevention Research.