Late-onset menopause

Written by josalin mitchell
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Late-onset menopause
Late-onset menopause may provide benefits in old age. (Image by, courtesy of Michel Filion)

Late-onset menopause may not be a sign of any real problem. It has been associated with risk for certain disorders. But late-onset menopause has also been known to have positive health associations. Menopause occurs in a woman's body after menstruation has ceased. No specific or correct age exists for the onset of menopause. Women who develop menopause later than other women, statistically speaking, have late-onset menopause.


Women usually start exhibiting symptoms of menopause around age 45. Late-onset menopause has no specific definition, but would be considered menopause that begins well after age 45. A woman who begins menopause at age 46, for instance, might not be said to have late-onset menopause. But a woman who starts menopause at age 55 or 60 would be.


Late-onset menopause has been associated with risk for breast cancer. Women who begin menopause after reaching the age of 55 are at higher risk than women who begin menopause at around 45, for example, according to

Breast Cancer

Late-onset menopause may contribute to risk for breast cancer due to oestrogen levels. Oestrogen is a hormone present in both sexes, but in higher levels in women. Women who have late-onset menopause may have higher levels of oestrogen over their lifetimes. Oestrogen leads to cell replication in the body. So when oestrogen is present in levels that are too high, the hormone that was once vital to the reproductive system becomes an enemy, causing breast cancer.

Contributing Factors

Research published in 1988 by the Japanese Journal of Cancer Research investigated the causes of early instance of the first menstrual cycle (menarche) and late-onset menopause and showed women with late-onset menopause exhibit similar characteristics. They tend to be larger than average, for instance, and consume more shellfish. Early menarche is also associated with risk for breast cancer.

Possible Benefits

Take heart, since the elevated levels of oestrogen over the lifetime that cause late-onset menopause are also associated mental health benefits that last into old age. Researchers Robert N. McLay, Ph.D., M.D.; Pauline M. Maki, Ph.D.; and Constantine G. Lyketsos, M.D., M.H.S., published in the Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences in 2003, findings of a study that indicated that women with late-onset menopause and women who never give birth to a child show less of the decline in cognitive ability that usually occurs in old age.


For maximum benefits, avoid smoking. Even though, according researcher published in the Japanese Journal of Cancer Research in 1988, smoking cigarettes inhibits late-onset menopause, it can also increase risk for cancers. This, of course, is not ideal for someone already experiencing delayed menopausal symptoms. Living in a large city or metropolitan area decrease the likelihood of late-onset menopause.

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