Perfluorocarbons play a role in early menopause

April 7, 2011

Perfluorocarbons (PFCs)?manmade surfactants widely found in the environment and in human tissues?are associated with early onset of menopause and endocrine disruption in women, a new study from the West Virginia University School of Medicine suggests.

 

Perfluorocarbons (PFCs)-manmade surfactants widely found in the environment and in human tissues-are associated with early onset of menopause and endocrine disruption in women, a new study from the West Virginia University School of Medicine suggests.

Researchers conducted a cross-sectional analysis of data on 25,957 women 18 to 65 years of age, excluding those who had reported hysterectomy and adjusting for age within group, smoking, alcohol consumption, body mass index, and exercise levels. Serum levels of PFCs-including perfluorooctanoate (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS)-and estradiol were evaluated, and the probability that menopause had occurred in women of perimenopausal age (older than 42 to 51 years) and menopausal age (52 to 65 years of age or older) was assessed. In the perimenopausal and menopausal age groups, women with PFOS and PFOA levels in the highest quintiles had higher odds of having experienced menopause than women in the lowest quintile. The researchers also found an inverse association between PFOS and serum estradiol but not PFOA and estradiol in these age groups.

Study authors speculate that PFCs might have a toxic effect on follicles, mimic estrogen properties, suppress pituitary release of luteinizing hormone or follicle-stimulating hormone, or influence the release of gonadotropin-releasing hormone from the hypothalamus. PFCs are present in food containers, clothing, furniture, carpets, paints, firefighting foam, and photographic emulsifiers.

Because the study was cross sectional, researchers couldn’t determine whether decreases in estradiol from PFC exposure during childbearing years explain the greater likelihood of menopause, and they could not independently confirm the survey data used in the study or ascertain the exact age of onset of menopause.

Data were drawn from the C8 Health Project, which collected data on 69,030 adults and children from 6 public water districts in which drinking water was contaminated by PFOA. The study was published online March 16 in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology.