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Hereditary Cancer Info > Menopause > Symptoms and Long Term Effects of Menopause

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Symptoms and Long Term Effects of Menopause

Women facing hereditary cancer have special considerations associated with early onset menopause and symptom management.

Heart disease

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in American women. Risk increases after menopause, regardless of age.  Before menopause, a woman’s natural estrogen protects her from heart disease; however this protective effect is lost after surgical menopause, and after surgery, women may need medical intervention to combat later health issues.

In addition to surgical menopause, risk factors for heart disease include:

  • sedentary lifestyle
  • waistline of more than 35 inches
  • high blood pressure or cholesterol
  • family history of heart disease and genetic factors

People with BRCA mutations may be more susceptible to cardiovascular disease. Researchers are studying whether BRCA genes may play a role in repairing damage in heart cells. This may be particularly important for people who have received certain types of chemotherapy that affect the heart.

Women in surgical menopause should maintain an ideal body weight, abstain from smoking, and consult with experts about reducing the risk for cardiovascular disease.

The role of hormone replacement therapy in managing risk for heart disease after surgical menopause remains an active area of research. A Mayo Clinic study of women who had surgical menopause before age 45 suggested that estrogen replacement therapy may protect against heart disease that is associated with early menopause. 

Updated 11/4/15 

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