THURSDAY, Sept. 1 (HealthDay News) -- Smoking may increase sex hormone levels in postmenopausal women, a new study suggests.

Previous research has shown that high levels of estrogens and androgens may be risk factors for breast and endometrial cancer, as well as type 2 diabetes.

Researchers examined blood samples from 2,030 postmenopausal women, aged 55 to 81, and found that current smokers had higher circulating levels of androgens and estrogens than former and never smokers.

The findings will be published in the October issue of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

"The observed increase in sex hormone levels with cigarette use suggests that tobacco smoke, apart from its direct toxic and carcinogenic effects, may also influence chronic disease risk through hormonal mechanisms," study author Judith Brand, of University Medical Center Utrecht in the Netherlands, said in a journal news release.

"The good news is that the effect of cigarette smoking appears reversible, as an almost immediate reduction in sex hormone levels was seen in women who quit using cigarettes," she added.

It's well known that reducing the risk of cancer, respiratory and heart diseases are major health benefits of quitting smoking.

"Our research suggests that smoking cessation may have additional effects by modifying hormone-related disease risks, but this was not the subject of the present study and requires further investigation," Brand said.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about women and smoking.