There’s nothing worse than getting your period when you least expect it (or not getting it at all when you really, really should). However, while having an irregular period can be annoying and at times inconvenient, it seems it could also be dangerous in the long run, as new research published in the BMJ has discovered a link between irregular menstrual cycles and early death.
The data is pulled from reporting over 24 years. That’s a pretty extensive period! Researchers tracked 79,505 women put into three different ages groups: 14 to 17; 18 to 22; and 29 to 46. They made sure none of the participants had a history of heart disease, diabetes, or cancer and were all controlled for diet, exercise habits, and mental health.
1,975 of the women died before age 70. Of those who passed away, 894 died from cancer and 172 from cardiovascular disease. Strangely enough, irregular menstrual cycles seemed to play a prevalent part in each of the women’s lives. Those who reported having irregular periods between the ages of 18 and 22 had a 37% increased risk. For those with extreme irregularities, defined as a cycle longer than 40 days, a 34% increased risk was found.
Irregular periods were also linked to higher cancer rates. Younger women between the ages of 14 and 22 who had irregular cycles were later found to have an increased risk of developing cancer, while women who developed irregular cycles later in life tended to have higher incidences of cardiovascular disease.
The results even surprised researchers. As study author Dr. Jorge E. Chavarro told the New York Times, it was surprising to discover that these increased mortality risks didn’t just apply to women with serious reproductive issues. “Importantly, these associations are not restricted to polycystic ovary syndrome or other gynecological or endocrine conditions that might result in irregular menstrual periods,” he explained. Hopefully this project will spur further research on this interesting and potentially life-saving discovery!
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