For a variety of reasons, women are prone to iron-poor blood. Every month until you hit menopause you lose iron as you bleed, especially if you have heavy periods. Pregnancy can also drain your stores, which may not get replenished during the crazy-busy new-mom stage. Another reason: Not eating enough iron-rich foods, like leafy green vegetables and beef.
That's why so many women take iron pills, either on their own or those prescribed by a doctor. But here's why you may want to revisit this strategy with your health provider. Iron can start to damage the DNA in cells 10 minutes after taking the supplement, according to a British study.
Scientists from Imperial College London tested the effects of iron on human cells--so not people themselves--and discovered that even at the doses commonly prescribed by M.D.s, the iron began to wreak havoc on cells. Why is that important? Cells can't repair themselves as quickly, and that can sometimes lead to the mutations that can cause cancer.
But before you panic, even the lead scientist in this study says it's too early to draw conclusions. If you're anemic, you need iron to function. You may not need as much as prescribed, but that's between you and your doctor. So have the conversation during your next visit.