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New Study Links Environmental Chemicals To Early Menopause

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Jeanetta Servos knew it was coming, but she wasn't prepared for the side effects of menopause: the mood changes, hot flashes and night sweats. Jeanetta Servos knew it was coming, but she wasn't prepared for the side effects of menopause: the mood changes, hot flashes and night sweats.
OKLAHOMA CITY -

Jeanetta Servos knew it was coming, but she wasn't prepared for the side effects of menopause: the mood changes, hot flashes and night sweats.

"I couldn't sleep," Jeanetta remembered. "Every night it was wake up two to three times and literally be drenched in sweat."

Jeanetta started going through menopause in her early 50s. That's about average, but a new study exposes a new trend that some women experience "the change" sooner.

Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis spent years studying the blood and urine samples of thousands of women from around the country. They compared the women's exposure to certain chemicals in the environment and the impact they could have on ovarian aging.

They found two specific chemicals: PCB's and Phthalates were associated with triggering menopause two to three years sooner than expected.

These chemicals are found in products we use every day, like make-up, shampoo, lotions and nail polish.

One of the researchers is Dr. Amber Cooper. She said, "They're [chemicals] are in the air. They're in the water. They're in the soil. You really can't get away from a lot of these chemicals."

Dr. Cooper said a lack of estrogen at a younger age carries health risks including heart disease, osteoporosis and can even impact fertility.

Oklahoma infertility specialist Dr. Eli Reshef agrees the environment can impact reproduction, but he isn't so sure about menopause.

"Ovaries are basically hidden from environmental factors, so the ovaries go through their own course of decline without much external influence from environmental factors," Dr. Reshef said.

Dr. Cooper added, "I don't want this phase of research to cause alarm, but what I hope it does is increase awareness."

Despite the environmental risks, Jeanetta has no regrets.

"I knew it was coming," said Jeanetta. "I knew what would happen when it came, so I probably wouldn't have done anything different."

Dr. Cooper is now looking at even more specific chemicals to try to more accurately find the environmental impact on ovarian health.

Dr. Reshef said smokers are at the greatest risk of going through menopause earlier. "We don't really know what factor in cigarette smoke increases the likelihood of early menopause," said Dr. Reshef. "Typically a smoker will have menopause two to three years on the average earlier than somebody who's a non-smoker."

Dr. Cooper added that obesity, diet and genetics are also contributing factors to early menopause.

What can we do to lower our risk of exposure to PCB's and Phthalates? Since they're found in most plastics, Dr. Cooper suggested not microwaving any food in plastics. The chemicals can be transferred to our food. 

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