Gene research sheds light on timing of menopause

January 23, 2012, University of Exeter
Gene research sheds light on timing of menopause
13 new regions of the genome associated with the timing of menopause have now been discovered.

(Medical Xpress) -- An international team of researchers has discovered 13 new regions of the genome associated with the timing of menopause.

These genes shed light on the biological pathways involved in reproductive lifespan and will provide insights into conditions connected to , such as breast cancer and heart disease.

Menopause is a major hormonal change that affects most when they are in their early 50s. The timing of menopause can have a huge impact on fertility, as well as influencing the risk of a range of such as breast cancer. It has been known for some time that influenced the , however until recently very few genes had been identified.

In the new study, published in the journal Nature Genetics on 22 January 2012, Dr Anna Murray, University of Exeter, Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry (PCMD) Dr John Perry, PCMD and WTCHG, University of Oxford, and dozens of international collaborators, examined the genomes of over 50,000 women. They identified 13 regions associated with menopause onset, and confirmed four previously identified. Most of the 17 regions include genes related to DNA damage/repair or the immune system, whilst others are linked to hormonal regulation.

Dr Perry said: “The new findings highlight biological pathways not previously associated with reproductive lifespan, and may provide insights into the other conditions connected with menopause age, such as cardiovascular disease and breast cancer.”

The association with breast cancer is related to the length of time a woman menstruates in total and is thought to be related to oestrogen exposure over a lifetime - in fact earlier menopause is protective for . Cardiovascular risk is increased in post-menopausal women compared to pre-menopausal and reduced oestrogen is thought to be a key component of this increased risk. Genetic studies will be beneficial in working out exactly what the relationships are between these conditions.

Dr. Murray added: “Menopause is a process most women go through, yet we know very little about what governs the timing of this key event in a woman’s life. By finding out which genes control the timing of menopause we hope to be able understand why this happens very early to some women, reducing their chances of having children naturally.”

The authors said they expected further research will identify additional genes, and also assess the impact of these genetic regions on related reproductive disorders. The research team are currently investigating women who had very early menopause, before 45 years, to determine whether the new menopause genes play a role in this clinically important condition which affects over five per cent of women.

Besides Dr Murray and Dr Perry, senior authors on the study include Professor Kathryn Lunetta and Dr Joanne Murabito at the Boston University schools of Public Health and Medicine, and Jenny A. Visser, a scientist at Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam (Netherlands).

Explore further: Smoking linked to early menopause in women

Related Stories

Smoking linked to early menopause in women

October 18, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- A new study published in the journal Menopause adds one more reason for women to avoid or give up the smoking habit. The study results show that women who light up are more likely to start menopause a ...

Recommended for you

Genes contribute to biological motion perception and its covariation with autistic traits

January 22, 2018
Humans can readily perceive and recognize the movements of a living creature, based solely on a few point-lights tracking the motion of the major joints. Such exquisite sensitivity to biological motion (BM) signals is essential ...

Researchers identify gene responsible for mesenchymal stem cells' stem-ness'

January 22, 2018
Many doctors, researchers and patients are eager to take advantage of the promise of stem cell therapies to heal damaged tissues and replace dysfunctional cells. Hundreds of ongoing clinical trials are currently delivering ...

Peers' genes may help friends stay in school, new study finds

January 18, 2018
While there's scientific evidence to suggest that your genes have something to do with how far you'll go in school, new research by a team from Stanford and elsewhere says the DNA of your classmates also plays a role.

Two new breast cancer genes emerge from Lynch syndrome gene study

January 18, 2018
Researchers at Columbia University Irving Medical Center and NewYork-Presbyterian have identified two new breast cancer genes. Having one of the genes—MSH6 and PMS2—approximately doubles a woman's risk of developing breast ...

A centuries-old math equation used to solve a modern-day genetics challenge

January 18, 2018
Researchers developed a new mathematical tool to validate and improve methods used by medical professionals to interpret results from clinical genetic tests. The work was published this month in Genetics in Medicine.

Can mice really mirror humans when it comes to cancer?

January 18, 2018
A new Michigan State University study is helping to answer a pressing question among scientists of just how close mice are to people when it comes to researching cancer.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.