Do cold weather and atmospheric conditions impact uterine wall thickness??
By elaineR.N. on August 23, 2013
Actually, there isn’t enough information to answer the question. Sorry about that, because I was hoping there would be a clear linkage or not.
The reason I am even addressing the question is because of a story told to me recently by a dear friend. She had some tests done months ago that showed her uterine wall thickness was at a dangerous level. The result of the test, done in a midwest city of four seasons where she had lived most of her life, clearly indicated a follow-up biopsy was needed. The woman now lives mostly in a very cold, mountainous area of the west. In fact, it snowed several weeks ago. In any case, she went for the endometrial (uterine wall) biopsy near her mountain home. A hysteroscopy (lighted tube that is placed in the uterus in order to obtain the biopsy and to get a visual of the lining) was done and it was noted that her uterine lining was at a nonpathological thickness. This was quite surprising and welcome, considering the well-documented history from her other doctor.
ENDOMETRIAL HYPERPLASIA is the medical term for my friend’s diagnosis. Simply said, it is when the lining of the uterus becomes too thick. This condition can lead to cancer of the uterus, but is not cancer nor does it always become cancer. As you can imagine though, it is a condition that is taken seriously and should be followed to ensure there aren’t any concerning changes.
The uterine lining changes normally during ones reproductive years due to cycling of estrogen and progesterone. After ovulation, progesterone levels increase, causing the uterine lining to thicken to prepare for a fertilized egg. If a pregnancy doesn’t happen, then both estrogen and progesterone decrease and the lining to the uterus is shed and menstruation happens.
My friend is menopausal, so her uterine thickening most likely wasn’t because of the normal changes to the uterine lining due to normal hormone fluctuations during ones monthly cycle. The only thing that had changed was her living situation. Not only is it cold in her cabin in the woods, it is at a very high altitude. I began researching this to see if there are studies to substantiate whether living at a higher altitude and colder weather had some influence on what happened to her. After all, this could be a real breakthrough in medical understanding – not that I am looking for a Nobel Prize – just trying to find if a correlation exists. Below is a brief overview of what I found through my search:
Atmospheric conditions are not a big influencer. I found an article: The home team advantage: reproduction in women indigenous to high altitude. Vizthum, VJ http://jeb.biologists.org/content/204/18/3141.full.pdf
Overall, there wasn’t enough data to substantiate that ovarian function or progesterone levels are different between women in high altitude versus low altitude settings. This leads me to believe that being a mountain woman didn’t lead to the cure of a thick uterine lining. For her, it means that her first diagnosis might not have been accurate, or her situation resolved, which can happen.
There are risk factors associated with the development of endometrial hyperplasia, which I will share. In some cases, knowing the risks, can lead to preventative behaviors. However, some of the factors are just who we are because of our genetics. Hopefully, these will motivate some women to seek ongoing gynecological checkups. No doubt, beyond prevention, the best cure is early detection and treatment.
Older then 35 years
Never having been pregnant
Young when starting periods and older when menopausal
History of diabetes, polycystic ovary condition, gallbladder or thyroid disease
Family history of ovarian, uterine or colon cancer.
There are some symptoms to be alert to so that, if you should experience them, you should contact your physician and schedule an appointment to get checked out.
Bleeding after menopause
Periods cycles that are shorter than 21 days
Bleeding between periods and a change in your period from lighter to heavier flow.
Random facts on weather and atmosphere and reproductive health:
Cold temperatures delayed reproduction.
Impact of climate change on women's reproductive health
Compelling and poignant read about the impact of climate on health, but not an answer to the original question.
To my beautiful friend: I am thankful for the outcome of your scare and sorry that I couldn’t shed any light on why the change occurred. No doubt that you will be vigilant about ongoing check ups, for which I am grateful. I appreciate that you gave me permission to write about your situation as it will help others. Speaking on behalf of your many friends, we want you healthy, happy and around for many years.