Obesity, smoking, and risk of vasomotor menopausal symptoms: a pooled analysis of eight cohort studies

Debra J. Anderson, Hsin Fang Chung, Charrlotte A. Seib, Annette J. Dobson, Diana Kuh, Eric J. Brunner, Sybil L. Crawford, Nancy E. Avis, Ellen B. Gold, Gail A. Greendale, Ellen S. Mitchell, Nancy F. Woods, Toyoko Yoshizawa, Gita D. Mishra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Frequent and severe vasomotor symptoms during menopause are linked with adverse health outcomes. Understanding modifiable lifestyle factors for the risk of vasomotor menopausal symptoms is important to guide preventive strategies. Objective: We investigated the associations between body mass index and smoking, their joint effects with the risk of vasomotor symptoms, and whether the associations differed by menopausal stage. Study Design: The International Collaboration for a Life Course Approach to Reproductive Health and Chronic Disease Events pooled data on 21,460 midlife women from 8 studies (median age, 50 years; interquartile range, 49–51 years) for the cross-sectional analysis. Four studies provided data for the prospective analysis (n=11,986). Multinomial logistic regression models with 4 categories of frequency/severity for the outcome of vasomotor symptoms were used to estimate relative risk ratios and 95% confidence intervals that were adjusted for within-study correlation and covariates. Results: At baseline, nearly 60% of the women experienced vasomotor symptoms. One-half of them were overweight (30%) or obese (21%), and 17% were current smokers. Cross-sectional analyses showed that a higher body mass index and smoking more cigarettes with longer duration and earlier initiation were all associated with more frequent or severe vasomotor symptoms. Never smokers who were obese had a 1.5-fold (relative risk ratio, 1.52; 95% confidence interval, 1.35–1.73) higher risk of often/severe vasomotor symptoms, compared with never smokers who were of normal-weight. Smoking strengthened the association because the risk of often/severe vasomotor symptoms was much greater among smokers who were obese (relative risk ratio, 3.02; 95% confidence interval, 2.41–3.78). However, smokers who quit at <40 years of age were at similar levels of risk as never smokers. Prospective analyses showed a similar pattern, but the association attenuated markedly after adjustment for baseline vasomotor symptoms. Furthermore, we found that the association between body mass index and vasomotor symptoms differed by menopausal status. Higher body mass index was associated with increased risk of vasomotor symptoms in pre- and perimenopause but with reduced risk in postmenopause. Conclusion: High body mass index (≥25 kg/m2) and cigarette smoking substantially increased women's risk for experiencing frequent or severe vasomotor symptoms in a dose-response manner, and smoking intensified the effect of obesity. However, the effect of body mass index on the risk of vasomotor symptoms was opposite among postmenopausal women. Maintaining a normal weight before the menopausal transition and quitting smoking at <40 years of age may mitigate the excess risk of vasomotor symptoms in midlife.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)478.e1-478.e17
JournalAmerican Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2020 May


  • hot flushes
  • night sweats
  • obesity
  • overweight
  • smoking
  • vasomotor symptoms

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Obstetrics and Gynaecology


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