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Hum Reprod. 2003 Jan;18(1):199-206.

Premature menopause in a multi-ethnic population study of the menopause transition.

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  • 1Departments of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Preventive Medicine, Rush Medical College, Chicago, IL, USA.



Premature menopause, also termed premature ovarian failure (POF), is characterized by cessation of menstruation before the age of 40 years. Little information is available on the general prevalence of POF or on the prevalence by ethnic group. There is also a lack of information on the association of POF with health indicators.


A cross-sectional survey of women aged 40-55 years was conducted at seven sites in the USA to determine eligibility for a community-based, multi-ethnic longitudinal study of the peri-menopause (The Study of Women Across the Nation, SWAN). Interview data were used to (i). determine the prevalence of self-reported POF overall and by ethnic group, and (ii). assess the association of POF with selected self-reported variables related to health. Cases of POF included only women with no discernible cause for POF.


POF was reported by 1.1% (126/11 652) of women. By ethnicity, 1.0% (95% CI, 0.7-1.4) of Caucasian, 1.4% (95% CI, 1.0-2.1) of African American, 1.4% (95% CI, 0.8-2.5) of Hispanic, 0.5% (95% CI, 0.1-1.9) of Chinese and 0.1% (95% CI, 0.02-1.1) of Japanese women experienced POF. The differences in frequency across ethnic groups were statistically significant (P = 0.01). Only Caucasian, African American and Hispanic women were included in further analyses since too few Asian women had POF. In a multivariate model, POF was independently associated with osteoporosis, female hormone use (excluding oral contraceptives), higher body mass index (BMI) and current smoking after adjustment for education level, ability to pay for basics, site and age at interview. In Caucasian women, use of female hormones, osteoporosis, severe disability and smoking were significantly associated with POF. In contrast, POF in African American women was associated with higher BMI and female hormone use, but not osteoporosis.


The prevalence of POF appears to vary by ethnicity. Health factors associated with POF also vary by ethnicity but because of the cross-sectional study design, it is not possible to determine cause and effect relationships. Health risks of POF would benefit from further study.

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