The menarche (first menstruation) of Portuguese women has been occurring earlier, according to a study developed by the Instituto de Saúde Pública da Universidade do Porto (ISPUP), which evaluated the evolution of age at menarche in a group of women born between 1920 and 1992. The median age of menarche was found to have declined from 13 to 12 years old.
Studying the evolution of age at menarche is important, because “there is evidence that an early age at menarche may be associated with health problems later in life”, says Catarina Queiroga, first author of the research, coordinated by Henrique Barros.
“With this study, we wanted to characterize the trend of age at menarche over several generations. In particular, we were interested in evaluating whether age at menarche is declining or stabilizing, as evidenced by studies in other European countries, or if, on the contrary, it would be increasing”, says the researcher.
The research, published in the “American Journal of Human Biology”, used data from 11 274 women, born between 1920 and 1992, belonging to the cohorts Geração XXI, EPITeen and EPIPorto. These ISPUP longitudinal studies have been following different population groups in the city of Porto (children, adolescents and adults) over several years. The data collected was related to the age at menarche of these women.
The median age at menarche was found to have been declining over the years, from 13 to 12, at a rate of 31 days for every 5 years.
“This is the most recent study to characterize the age at menarche in a large number of Portuguese women, with different ages. We intended to analyze the evolution of age at menarche over several generations, to later develop other studies that try to explain the trend observed”, she notes.
In this context, researchers are studying the relationship between exposure to adversity in childhood and age at menarche. “We want to see if there are any inflammatory risk factors that can influence sexual maturation”, Catarina Queiroga stresses.
The DOCnet project: a network to study cardiovascular and oncological diseases
The research now published is part of the DOCnet project (Diabetes & obesity at the crossroads between Oncological and Cardiovascular diseases – a system analysis NETwork towards precision medicine), of which ISPUP is a partner. The project aims to develop an integrative technological network that helps to clarify the role of obesity and diabetes mellitus in the development of cardiovascular and oncological diseases.
The study entitled Secular trend in age at menarche in women in Portugal born between 1920 and 1992: Results from three population-based studies was developed within the Epidemiology Research Unit (EPIUnit) of ISPUP. The researchers Rita Silva, Ana Cristina Santos and Isabel Maia also participated in the article.