Menopause: It's in your genes

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Women whose mothers or sisters experienced menopause by age 45 (or as old as 54) were roughly 6 times more likely to do the same.

But age of menopause is not entirely inherited, the authors found - a significant component also depends on so-called environmental factors.

Environmental factors?

"Genes have an important effect on age at menopause, but lifestyle also matters, and so women can affect their age at menopause by their behaviours," said study author Danielle Morris at the Institute of Cancer Research.

Women who smoke tend to undergo menopause roughly 1-2 years earlier than former or non-smokers. Women who have never given birth also experience menopause earlier.

Age at menopause is an essential aspect of fertility since a woman's ability to conceive ends roughly 10 years before she experiences menopause.

According to the National Institute on Aging, 51 is the average age at which a woman reaches menopause, or has her last period. But some women have their last period in their 40s and some have it later in their 50s.

The study


To investigate how much of a woman's age at menopause is inherited, Morris and her team compared women who were more or less related and their environment.

"If identical twins have more similar menopausal ages than non-identical twins, then this suggests that genes are important because identical twins have more genes in common than non-identical twins," said Morris.

"Similarly, if sisters have more similar menopausal ages than mothers and daughters, then this (suggests) that environment is important, because sisters have the same amount of genes in common as mothers and daughters do, but sisters tend to have more similar lifestyles than mothers and daughters."

The researchers selected 2,060 women between the ages of 31 and 90 who had a first-degree relative.

Both early and late menopause appeared to run in families, the authors found - but so did usual-age menopause, they note. Specifically, women whose sisters and mothers underwent menopause during a typical age were between 2 and 7 times more likely to do the same.

Have you seen a pattern of women going through menopause at similar ages in your family?
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