Women who experience early menopause could be less likely to develop severe rheumatoid arthritis than those who undergo the transition in later life. This is finding of a new study presented at the Annual Congress of the European League Against Rheumatism. Researchers found that early menopausal women over 45-years-of-age are 50 per cent less likely to have severe rheumatoid arthritis, highlighting a range of new factors that contribute to the development of the disease. It was also found that oral contraceptive use or breast feeding have no effect on rheumatoid arthritis risk. Chronic rheumatoid arthritis currently affects over two million women in Europe and the discovery of new ways to combat the condition by identifying risk factors is vital. Dr Mitra Pikwer, lead author of the study, commented: "We already know that hormonal factors may influence the risk of rheumatoid arthritis, but this is the first study we know of that investigates the impact of menopausal age on the severity of rheumatoid arthritis." The breakthrough has been deemed "vital" in understanding the effect hormones have on the development of the disease, she added. Find the nearest Barchester care home.