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Early Menopause: Study Says Common Item Can Be A Trigger

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Everyone's spotted them -- women of all ages who pile on too much makeup as in the oh-she-looks-so-cakey kind of way. But wearing makeup may result in more than just a pancake face. A new study warns that chemicals in cosmetics, plastics and household cleaners -- phthalates -- could actually cause women to go through menopause earlier than their peers.

And that's hardly good news. Previous research has linked early menopause with higher rates of bone loss, heart problems and strokes in women.

"Early menopause has a lot of impact on your health," said Dr. Natalia Grindler, an obstetrician-gynecologist at Washington University's School of Medicine and one of the authors of the study, at this week's American Society of Reproductive Medicine conference in San Diego. "We absolutely think these chemicals have the potential to affect ovarian function and human reproduction."

In the study, Grindler and her colleagues examined the levels of phthalates in the blood or urine of 5,700 women. Those with the highest amounts were found to have gone through menopause an average of 2.3 years before the others. Menopause typically occurs in women around the age of 51, so those exposed to the highest levels of phthalates were going through it at around age 49.

But Grindler told those at the conference that some women may be reaching menopause 15 years early, in their mid-30s. She suggested that the women may not only have been exposed to phthalates through makeup, but also through the eating of more packaged foods.

Phthalates also have been cited as the culprit in other studies looking at risks for cancer, obesity and diabetes. In one recent study, phthalates were tied to reproductive system abnormalities in mice.

Researchers at Washington University emphasized that the studies are still in the preliminary stages and that final results of won't be released for months, noting that they "don't want to scare people."

Even so, a list of phthalate-free cosmetics and other products can be found here.

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