The news about lighting up and being around those who do just keeps getting worse. According to a new study, smoking and secondhand smoke is tied to both infertility in women and early menopause.
Researchers found that, when compared to women who never smoked, those who reported being active smokers at some point in their lives were 14 percent more likely to have fertility issues and 26 percent more likely to enter menopause before age 50.
Even more troubling: The women who never smoked but were exposed to the most secondhand smoke were 18 percent more likely to have problems getting pregnant and to enter menopause at an early age.
While earlier studies have linked smoking to reproductive issues in women, few have looked at the links between secondhand smoke and infertility and/or early menopause. "The literature really wasn't clear," Andrew Hyland, who led the research, told Reuters Health. "Particularly with secondhand smoke."
Hyland and his colleagues analyzed data from 88,732 U.S. women between 1993 and 1998, when they were between the ages of 50 and 79. About 15 percent met the criteria for infertility, and roughly 45 percent also met the criteria for early menopause.
And while he cautions that the study can't prove cause and effect, Hyland said the research team adjusted the data to account for other factors that would be tied to infertility and early menopause. The study also can't tell us what causes the link between smoke exposure, infertility, and early menopause, but Hyland suggested it's driven by smoke exposure throughout a woman's lifetime.
So what now?
Hyland recommended clinicians advise women of reproductive age to limit their smoke exposure in order to minimize these outcomes. And Patricia Folan, director of the Center for Tobacco Control, seconds this notion. "This study provides additional motivation and incentive for women of all ages to avoid smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke," she said. "As well as to quit smoking."