Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Study finds genetic links to age of first menstrual period and menopause

May add to prevention efforts against cancer, osteoporosis and heart disease

Newly identified gene variants associated with the age at which females experience their first menstrual period and the onset of menopause may help shed light on the prevention of breast and endometrial cancer, osteoporosis, and cardiovascular disease.

In a new study, researchers from Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH), Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH), National Cancer Institute (NCI), and the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT report that they have identified 10 genetic variants in two chromosomal regions associated with age at menarche (the first menstrual period), and 13 genetic variants in four chromosomal regions associated with age at natural menopause.

The paper, "Genome-wide association studies identify loci associated with age at menarche and at natural menopause," will publish online in Nature Genetics on May 17, 2009 ( ).

Menarche and natural menopause are two important physiological events in a woman's life. An early onset of menarche and later menopause are well-established risk factors for the development of breast cancer and endometrial cancer, the researchers explain. On the other hand, early menopause increases risk of osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease.

Previous studies have suggested both menarche and menopause may be partially under genetic control. To identify common genetic variants influencing these states, the researchers analyzed more than 317,000 gene variants in a total of 17,438 women from the Nurses' Health Study (NHS) and the Women's Genome Health Study (WGHS) based at BWH.

"At these newly identified loci, fine mapping or sequencing might lead to identification of the causal variants, and thus expand our knowledge of the underlying physiology and biological regulation of these traits," said lead author Chunyan He, who was a doctoral student in the HSPH Department of Epidemiology while conducting the research. "Insights into the genetic factors influencing the timing of menarche and natural menopause might shed light on normal reproductive function and the prevention of the diseases associated with these two traits."

Daniel Chasman, Director of Computational Biology in the Center for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention at BWH, said: "The collaboration of the WGHS and the NHS represents a great example of how large cohorts with genome-wide data can complement each other. While only one locus reached near genome-wide significance in the NHS alone, the meta-analysis of combined data had much more statistical power and revealed a total of two loci for timing of menarche and four for timing of menopause." Chasman, also an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School, added, "Of the loci for timing of menopause, three were already strong but not proven candidates in the NHS; these loci reached genome-wide significance in the WGHS alone, supplementing the meta-analysis by a second mode of validation through replication. The remaining locus, for timing of menopause, would not have been identified, even as a candidate, without the joint power of these two cohorts working together. Future collaborations will hopefully continue to leverage the combined power of the two cohorts for association studies directed at other clinical characteristics."

The NHS was begun in 1976 to investigate the potential long term consequences of the use of oral contraceptives. The studies were soon expanded to include diet and nutrition, in recognition of their roles in the development of chronic diseases. The research continues today with more than 116,000 women enrolled in the study.

The WGHS was announced in 2006 as a survey of genetic differences among 28,000 initially healthy American women who had already been tracked for over a decade for the development of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and other common health disorders. Stored genetic samples from each participant undergo a fully confidential "genome-wide scan" evaluating more than 317,000 potential genetic differences.

"Genome-wide association studies identify loci associated with age at menarche and at natural menopause," Chunyan He, Peter Kraft, Constance Chen, Julie Buring, Guillaume Pare´, Susan Hankinson, Stephen Chanock, Paul Ridker, David Hunter, and Daniel Chasman, Nature Genetics, online May 17, 2009,

The Women's Genome Health Study (WGHS) is supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National Cancer Institute, Donald W. Reynolds Foundation and the Fondation Leducq, with collaborative scientific support and funding for genotyping provided by Amgen. The Nurses' Health Study (NHS) is supported by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The NHS genome-wide association study was performed as part of the Cancer Genetic Markers of Susceptibility initiative of the NCI.

Visit the HSPH website for the latest news ( ), press releases ( ) and multimedia offerings ( ).

Harvard School of Public Health ( ) is dedicated to advancing the public's health through learning, discovery, and communication. More than 400 faculty members are engaged in teaching and training the 1,000-plus student body in a broad spectrum of disciplines crucial to the health and well being of individuals and populations around the world. Programs and projects range from the molecular biology of AIDS vaccines to the epidemiology of cancer; from risk analysis to violence prevention; from maternal and children's health to quality of care measurement; from health care management to international health and human rights.

Christina Roache | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Make way for the mini flying machines
21.03.2018 | American Chemical Society

nachricht New 4-D printer could reshape the world we live in
21.03.2018 | American Chemical Society

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Researchers at Fraunhofer monitor re-entry of Chinese space station Tiangong-1

In just a few weeks from now, the Chinese space station Tiangong-1 will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere where it will to a large extent burn up. It is possible that some debris will reach the Earth's surface. Tiangong-1 is orbiting the Earth uncontrolled at a speed of approx. 29,000 km/h.Currently the prognosis relating to the time of impact currently lies within a window of several days. The scientists at Fraunhofer FHR have already been monitoring Tiangong-1 for a number of weeks with their TIRA system, one of the most powerful space observation radars in the world, with a view to supporting the German Space Situational Awareness Center and the ESA with their re-entry forecasts.

Following the loss of radio contact with Tiangong-1 in 2016 and due to the low orbital height, it is now inevitable that the Chinese space station will...

Im Focus: Alliance „OLED Licht Forum“ – Key partner for OLED lighting solutions

Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, provider of research and development services for OLED lighting solutions, announces the founding of the “OLED Licht Forum” and presents latest OLED design and lighting solutions during light+building, from March 18th – 23rd, 2018 in Frankfurt a.M./Germany, at booth no. F91 in Hall 4.0.

They are united in their passion for OLED (organic light emitting diodes) lighting with all of its unique facets and application possibilities. Thus experts in...

Im Focus: Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions

Oceans formed before Tharsis and evolved together, shaping climate history of Mars

A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...

Im Focus: Tiny implants for cells are functional in vivo

For the first time, an interdisciplinary team from the University of Basel has succeeded in integrating artificial organelles into the cells of live zebrafish embryos. This innovative approach using artificial organelles as cellular implants offers new potential in treating a range of diseases, as the authors report in an article published in Nature Communications.

In the cells of higher organisms, organelles such as the nucleus or mitochondria perform a range of complex functions necessary for life. In the networks of...

Im Focus: Locomotion control with photopigments

Researchers from Göttingen University discover additional function of opsins

Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

TRAPPIST-1 planets provide clues to the nature of habitable worlds

21.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

The search for dark matter widens

21.03.2018 | Materials Sciences

Natural enemies reduce pesticide use

21.03.2018 | Life Sciences

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>