My intuition coupled with informal interviews of menopausal women has led me to believe that our immune system goes on holiday when the Big M and its baby sister perimenopause come to call. Would that we could do the same!
As promised in my last blog entry, I contacted the Nurse s Health Study about my suspicions, requesting they look into it further. As I d expect from such a wonderful group of investigators, they responded right away. Researcher Elizabeth Karlson allowed as they had not studies menopause and immunity per se but they had looked into rheumatoid arthritis and menopausal women. She attached the study and concluded:
We have studied reproductive and hormonal risk factors for rheumatoid arthritis in the Nurses' Health Study. There is a slight increase in the frequency of new onset of rheumatoid arthritis among women in their early 50's, around the time of menopause. We did not find any association between hormone use and rheumatoid arthritis.
My feeling is that when we look at each serious disease entity one at a time (which is actually how most studies will be conducted), we ll find only slight increases for menopausal women over premenopausal women.