Of course it would be highly useful to know when your menopause might start for a whole number, and variety of reasons but the main one for many women will the decision on when to start a family. In the West, woman are having their children later due to their career, a need to work to support the family income or just not feeling that it is the right time.
Sadly, ‘the right time’ may not be something you are in control of and currently early menopause affects one in 20 UK women which of course reduces the number of available fertile years. Lead scientist Dr Anna Murray, from the University of Exeter Peninsula Medical School, says, “It is estimated that a woman’s ability to conceive decreases on average ten years before she starts the menopause. Therefore, those who are destined to have an early menopause and delay childbearing until their 30s are more likely to have problems conceiving.”
The study Breakthrough Generations Study was done by scientists at the University of Exeter Peninsula Medical School and The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) and funded by The Wellcome Trust. They tested four genes associated with the menopause and then compared 2,000 women from the Breakthrough Generations Study who had experienced early menopause with a matched group of the same number. The four genes each affected risk of early menopause individually, but in combination they had a larger impact, which goes some way towards explaining why some women experience early menopause.
The Breakthrough Generations Study is a large and comprehensive study into the causes of breast cancer and will follow the 100,000 UK women participants for the next 40 years to unravel the lifestyle, environmental and genetic factors that cause the disease.
Although early menopause is associated with a decreased risk of breast cancer, women who experience early menopause are susceptible to other health problems including osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease and a reduction in fertility.
It is hoped that the research could help women determine whether they have a genetic predisposition to early menopause, and therefore predict the time of the end of their reproductive life so they could then make informed family planning decisions on the basis of this knowledge. These findings are the first stage in developing an easy and relatively inexpensive genetic test which could help the one in 20 UK women who may be affected by early menopause.