Dr Jacqueline Maybin’s press commentary on irregular menstruation and whether it impacts health
MRC Centre for Reproductive Health’s Dr Jackie Maybin was approached by Science Media Centre and asked to offer expert commentary on a new study looking at menstrual cycle length and regularity, and the risk of an early death.
Study details: ‘Menstrual cycle regularity and length across the reproductive lifespan and risk of premature mortality: prospective cohort study’ by Wang et al. was published in The BMJ Thursday 1st October.
Here is Dr Maybin’s full quote and links to some of the coverage generated:
Dr Jacqueline Maybin, Senior Research Fellow and Consultant Gynaecologist at the MRC Centre for Reproductive Health, University of Edinburgh, said:
“This paper reports an increased risk of early death in nurses with persistently irregular menstrual cycles verses those with regular periods. 79 505 women were included in the study and 1975 premature deaths occurred.
“The methods used are sound and authors have accounted for confounders, such as oral contraceptive use, diet, BMI and smoking. However, all of the participants in this study were nurses, some of whom will have worked very irregular hours. Shift work, particularly nightshifts, has been shown to have a significant impact on long-term health. Disruption of the circadian rhythm has also been shown to affect menstrual regularity, with shift-workers more likely to have irregular and long menstrual cycles. This was not accounted for in the analysis and may limit the application of these findings to the general population.
“The findings reported are interesting but it should be stressed that this is an association between irregular menstrual cycles and early death. This means that there is no current evidence that having irregular cycles causes early death and the association may be due to chance.
“It is also important to remember that irregular menstruation is a symptom and not a diagnosis. Therefore, a specific underlying cause of irregular menstruation may increase the risk of premature death, rather than the irregular bleeding, per se. We already know that women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), a leading cause of irregular periods, have an increased risk of diabetes, high blood pressure and cancer of the womb. It is important that women with PCOS speak to their doctor to reduce these risks.
“This study is a real step forward in closing the data gap that exists in women’s health. It raises many interesting research questions and areas of future study. These data will encourage future interrogation of menstrual symptoms and pathologies as an indicator of long-term health outcomes and may provide an early opportunity to implement preventative strategies to improve women’s health across the lifespan.”