Editors' ChoiceWOMEN’S HEALTH

Fanning the Flames: Understanding Menopausal Hot Flushes

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Science Translational Medicine  22 Jun 2011:
Vol. 3, Issue 88, pp. 88ec97
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3002750

Menopause cannot be ignored. Hot flushes, a hallmark of the menopausal transition, have a major influence on women’s health and quality of life. The growing population of aging women should kindle an increasing body of data on the etiology and management of menopause. Recent debates about the use of hormone therapy in middle-aged women further highlight our need for a scientific understanding of hot flushes. A new study by Freeman et al. begins to shed light on hot flushes and associated risk factors. The researchers conducted a longitudinal cohort study of 259 women aged 35 to 47 years to assess menopausal symptoms over a 13-year period, with duration of moderate to severe hot flushes as a primary outcome. Results showed that the median duration of hot flushes was 10.2 years and significantly related to the age at onset. Women who developed symptoms before 40 years of age experienced a longer duration of hot flushes (median 11.57 years), whereas women who became symptomatic after age 50 had the shortest (median 3.8 years). Trends were also noted by race and body mass index, with longer symptomatic periods noted among African American women and those with a lower body mass index. Importantly for the clinical management of perimenopausal and menopausal women, this study begins to clarify the murky picture of which patient might benefit from hormone therapy and the optimal duration of treatment. However, much remains unknown about the pathophysiology of this condition that affects hundreds of thousands of women.

E. W. Freeman et al., Duration of menopausal hot flushes and associated risk factors. Obstet. Gynecol. 117, 1095–1104 (2011). [PubMed]

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