The objective of this study was to investigate the role of menopause in the appearance of the physiopathological sequence that leads to chronic mountain sickness (CMS) in a high-altitude female population. The females studied are 30-54 yr old (n = 152) and have permanent residence in Cerro de Pasco (Pasco, Peru; 4,300 m). The sample was divided into postmenopausal and premenopausal groups for comparison. Blood oxygen saturation (SaO2), excessive erythrocytosis [EE, measured by the level of hematocrit (Het)], peak expiratory flow rates (PEFR), and a score that represents the main signs and symptoms of CMS (CMSscore) were measured. Postmenopausal women had higher Het (50.2 +/- 4.04 vs. 47.4 +/- 4.13%, P < 0.001), lower SaO2 (81.9 +/- 4.12 vs. 84.7 +/- 3.14%, P < 0.001) and PEFR values (489 +/- 101 vs. 534 +/- 90 l/min, P < 0.02), and slightly higher CMSscore (19.1 +/- 3.37 vs. 17.9 +/- 3.48, P < 0.06) than premenopausal women. The prevalence of women with EE (EE = Hct > 56%) was found to be 8.8%. Forty-five percent of the postmenopausal subjects presented a high CMSscore (> 21), whereas only 22% of the premenopausal subjects presented this high value (P < 0.02). We can therefore conclude that menopause may represent a contributing factor for the development of CMS.