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There's an Experimental Procedure That May Delay Menopause, but Is It Worth It?

Menopause typically happens to women in their 40s and 50s (the average age in the United States is 51), and among the many changes to the body that occur during this time, the most obvious is probably that a woman’s child-bearing years come to an end. This is why the British in vitro fertilization (IVF) company ProFam has developed a procedure that could potentially delay menopause by up to 20 years if performed on women younger than 40.

The company made headlines in August of 2019 when it was announced that 10 women, between the ages of 22 and 36, have already undergone this procedure. According to Medscape, the procedure involves removing a piece of healthy ovarian tissue and cryogenically freezing it, with the intention to reimplant it when the woman reaches menopause age.

At this point, it is too early to know how effective the treatment will be, and there is no evidence that it will successfully delay menopause. However, freezing ovarian tissue is not new, and has been done for years to “preserve fertility in young cancer patients,” Healthline reports.

“As women, for the first time in human history, are living so much longer in the post-fertile phase, they may be suffering much longer,” Professor Simon Fishel, the CEO of ProFam and founder of the CARE Fertility Group, told Healthline. The company is also hopeful that the procedure could benefit women with health issues related to menopause, such as cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis.

“This is the first project in the world to provide healthy women ovarian tissue cryopreservation purely to delay the menopause,” the company’s chief medical officer, Yousri Afifi, told Sunday Times (via The Guardian).

There are obvious benefits, but although delaying menopause may be appealing to some women, doing so could cause other health issues, including increasing the risk of breast cancer. According to Healthline, Dr. Marcelle Cedars, director of the UCSF Center for Reproductive Health, has noted that because menopause is a natural process, artificially delaying it could have side effects.

“There are plusses and minuses to delaying menopause. While prolonged estrogen would delay heart disease and osteoporosis, delayed menopause is associated with an increased risk for breast cancer,” Cedars told the publication.

Another drawback is probably the price, and according to the publication, the company is offering its treatment from £7,000 to £11,000!

[Image via Shutterstock]

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