Introduction: We previously reported that female smokers evidence greater subjective craving and stress/emotional reactivity to personalized stress cues than males. The present study employed the same dataset to assess whether females in the follicular versus luteal phase of the menstrual cycle accounted for the gender differences.
Methods: Two objective criteria, onset of menses and luteinizing hormone surge (evaluated via home testing kits), were used to determine whether female smokers were in either the follicular (n = 22) or the luteal (n = 15) phase of their menstrual cycle, respectively. The females and a sample of male smokers (n = 53) were then administered a laboratory-based cue reactivity paradigm that involved assessment of craving, stress, and emotional reactivity in response to counterbalanced presentations of both a personalized stress script and neutral/relaxed script.
Results: While there were no significant differences between females in the follicular versus luteal phase on any outcome measure, females in the luteal menstrual phase reported greater craving than males whereas females in the follicular phase reported greater stress and arousal than males and perceived the stress cues as more emotionally aversive than males.
Conclusions: This preliminary investigation suggests that gender differences in craving versus affective responding to stress cues may, in part, be explained variation by menstrual cycle phase. Study limitations and implications of the findings for future research and treatment are briefly discussed.
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