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JUNE 1, 2016 by APRIL McCARTHY
Researchers Show How Women Can Quit Smoking By Timing It Within Their Menstrual Cycle


According to a new study from researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, women can get rid of their smoking habit by timing the quit date with optimal days within their menstrual cycle.



Smoking cessation programs are often difficult. The risks of smoking cessation drugs are often worse than smoking itself. So quitting naturally is always the best option when available.

Along with cardiovascular disease and type II diabetes, cigarette smoking is a leading cause of preventable death in the United States, and women experience more severe health consequences from cigarette smoking than men, including a 25 percent increased risk of developing coronary heart disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Research also shows that women have greater difficulty with smoking cessation than men.

"Understanding how menstrual cycle phase affects neural processes, cognition and behavior is a critical step in developing more effective treatments and in selecting the best, most individualized treatment options to help each cigarette smoker quit," said the study's lead author, Reagan Wetherill, a research assistant professor of Psychology.

Wetherill and senior author Teresa Franklin, a research associate professor of Neuroscience in Psychiatry, have been studying the brains of premenopausal women who smoke cigarettes for several years in Penn's Center for the Studies of Addiction. Their work is based on a significant animal literature showing that the natural sex hormones -- estrogen and progesterone -- which fluctuate over the course of the menstrual cycle modulate addictive behavior.

The animal data show that during the pre-ovulatory, or follicular phase of the menstrual cycle, when the progesterone-to-estrogen ratio is low, women are more likely to be spurred toward addictive behaviors.

Alternatively, during the early pre-menstrual or luteal phase of the menstrual cycle, when the progesterone-to-estrogen ratio is high, addictive behaviors are thwarted, suggesting that progesterone might protect women from relapsing to smoking.

The researchers theorized that the natural fluctuations in ovarian hormones that occur over the course of the monthly menstrual cycle affect how women make decisions regarding reward - smoking a cigarette -- and so-called "smoking cues," which are the people, places and things that they associate with smoking, such as the smell of a lit cigarette or going on their coffee break.

These "appetitive reminders" to smoke are perceived as pleasant and wanted, and similar to cigarettes, are also rewarding.

"The results from this study become extremely important as we look for more ways to help the over 40 million individuals in the U.S. alone addicted to cigarettes. When we learn that something as simple as timing a quit date may impact a woman's cessation success, it helps us to provide more individualized treatment strategies for individuals who are struggling with addiction", said Franklin.



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