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Duke Medicine: Hysterectomy increases risk for earlier menopause in younger women

Posted December 12, 2011

In a finding that confirms what many obstetricians and gynecologists suspected, Duke University researchers report that younger women who undergo hysterectomies face a nearly two-fold increased risk for developing menopause early.

The study, published in the December issue of the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology, is the largest analysis to track over time the actual hormonal impact of woman who had hysterectomies and compare them to women whose uteruses remained intact.

"Hysterectomy is a common treatment for many conditions, including fibroids and excessive bleeding," said Patricia G. Moorman, PhD, MSPH, an associate professor in the Department of Community and Family Medicine at Duke University and lead author of the study. "Most women are very satisfied with the results of a hysterectomy. But this is a potential risk of the surgery that should be considered along with the benefit."

Up to 600,000 women in the United States undergo hysterectomy each year, but the long-term consequences of the procedure have not been well documented. Studies have been small or relied on the recollections of women about the onset of menopause.

The Duke team enrolled nearly 900 women ages 30 to 47 at two hospitals in Durham -- Duke University Hospital and Durham Regional Hospital -- and followed up with blood tests and questionnaires for five years. Half the women, 465, were healthy controls who had no surgery, while 406 women underwent hysterectomies that spared at least one ovary.

Preserving the ovaries while removing the uterus is a strategy designed to allow a woman's hormone production to continue, which has health benefits. Moorman said doctors have long known that early menopause ­-- either from surgery or from other factors that halt egg production -- can increase a woman's risk of osteoporosis, heart disease, and other ailments.

Yet despite preserving the ovaries, the Duke team found that 14.8 percent of women in the study who had hysterectomies experienced menopause over the course of the study, compared to 8 percent of women who had no surgery.

The risk for menopause was highest among women who had one ovary removed along with their uterus, but it remained elevated even when both ovaries stayed in place. The Duke team's analysis estimated that menopause occurred approximately two years earlier in the women who underwent hysterectomy.

For more about the study, go to DukeHealth.org. Duke Medicine is Go Ask Mom's sponsor and offers healthy information here every Tuesday.

3 Comments

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  • storchheim Dec 13, 2011

    I had both ovaries removed instead of a hysterectomy. I had inoperable fibroids, meaning the whole uterus would have had to come out, and frankly...I didn't want some unconcerned male doctor stitching me shut at the top, if you know what I mean. I already had a careless, disfiguring biopsy scar on my breast from one who couldn't comprehend why this would matter, since I wasn't married or a stripper. (He actually asked about the second thing.)

    Easiest thing ever! I walked up the stairs the next day and never, not once, felt a twinge of pain. No weeks-long recovery either.

    Of course menopause followed 30 days after that, but as I told my dear, apologetic doctor, "It was going to happen anyway if I lived long enough!" And to be free of 18 periods a year, mostly painful, plus the risk of cancer significantly reduced - I'm glad I did it.

  • Killian Dec 13, 2011

    Exactly. Mine was 11yrs ago and I was told to expect it.

    However, portraying menopause as some ghastly, horrific side effect to be feared is not only absurd, but it's detrimental to women. It is merely a phase of life that can be dealt with gently, with homeopathic remedies for the discomforts, and without the need for cancer inducing hormones.

    Pitiful article, really.

  • pulstar40 Dec 13, 2011

    This is just coming out? I had mine 10 years ago and was told THEN that I would develop menopause early.