Could Quitting Smoking Be Easier for Women Just After Ovulation?

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WEDNESDAY, Jan. 7, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Women who want to quit smoking need every advantage they can get. Now, a new study finds that timing a quit attempt around certain points in the menstrual cycle may increase the chances of success.

According to background information from the study, only about one in 10 smokers who quit are still smoke-free after a year, and women have a tougher time quitting than men, even if they smoke the same amount as men.

In the new study, Canadian researchers tracked outcomes for 34 men and women who smoked more than 15 cigarettes a day. They found that the women's craving for nicotine was strongest during their periods.

That may be because declines in levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone boost nicotine withdrawal symptoms and also boost the activity of brain circuits associated with craving, the researchers said.

The results suggest that women who want to quit smoking may have a better chance of success if they try to kick the habit after they ovulate, when their levels of estrogen and progesterone are elevated, according to study lead author Adrianna Mendrek of the University of Montreal.

"Taking the menstrual cycle into consideration could help women to stop smoking," she said in a university news release.

The study was published recently in Psychiatry Journal.

According to the study authors, prior research found that female rats became addicted to nicotine and other substances more quickly, and worked harder for the same dose, compared to male rats. This suggests that sex hormones might play a role in addiction, Mendrek's team said.

However, each smoker is unique in terms of tobacco use, personality, personal history, social situation and environment, Mendrek added.

"Stress, anxiety and depression are probably the more important factors to take into consideration," she noted.

More information

The American Cancer Society offers a guide to quitting smoking.