WEDNESDAY, Oct. 16, 2019 (HealthDay News) — Women whose menstrual cycles persistently vary from the 28-day norm may have an increased risk of earlier death, new research suggests.
The study found that women who had irregular periods or extra-long menstrual cycles had as much as a one-third higher risk of death during the two-decade study compared to women who usually had a normal menstrual cycle.
However, “these results are not a cause for alarm in the irregular cycle population,” said Dr. Mitchell Kramer, chairman of obstetrics and gynecology at Northwell Health’s Huntington Hospital, in Huntington, N.Y. “The relationship between them and an increased risk of death is a soft one at best, and possibly suggestive of other underlying medical conditions,” added Kramer, who wasn’t involved in the study.
A typical menstrual cycle repeats every 28 days, according to the U.S. Office on Women’s Health. A change in that pattern sometimes isn’t uncommon. Teen girls and women just before menopause often have more irregular periods.
But this study found a difference when women consistently had irregular periods or cycles that lasted longer than 32 days.
There are a number of medical conditions linked to irregular menstrual cycles. These include obesity, uncontrolled diabetes, polycystic ovary syndrome, stress and thyroid conditions, the women’s health office said.
The study comes from Harvard Medical School in Boston and Tongji Medical College in China. It included nearly 94,000 women. At the start of the study, none had a history of heart or blood vessel disease, cancer or diabetes.
The women reported the usual length of their periods, as well as how often they had them. Their health was followed from 1991 to 2013.
During the study, almost 1,700 women died. More than 800 died from cancer, and 166 from heart or blood vessel disease, the researchers said.
Women who said their menstrual cycles were always irregular between the ages of 14 and 17 were 21% more likely to die from any cause during the study than women with very regular periods. Women with consistently irregular periods from 18 to 22 were 34% more likely to die from any cause, the study found.