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Gene Study Gives New Insight Into Puberty in Girls
Date:7/23/2014

By
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, July 23, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- The timing of a girl's first menstrual period may be determined by hundreds, and possibly thousands, of gene variations, a new study suggests.

Researchers have identified over 100 regions of DNA that are connected to the timing of menarche -- a woman's first menstrual period. The researchers hope these findings will shed light on the biology of a number of diseases ranging from type 2 diabetes to breast cancer.

"These findings will provide additional insights into how puberty timing is linked to the risk of disease in later life," said lead researcher John Perry, a senior scientist at the University of Cambridge MRC epidemiology unit, in the United Kingdom.

"We hope that with the help of future studies, this will in turn lead to better understanding of the underlying biology behind diseases such as type 2 diabetes and breast cancer," Perry said.

Earlier puberty has been linked to increased risks of some of the most common health problems today, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and breast cancer. Although estrogen levels are thought to be involved, the full reasons for the connection between menarche and health conditions later in life aren't clear.

The new study found that some of the gene regions linked to menarche overlap with genes tied to hormone production, body weight, weight at birth, adulthood height and bone density -- among other things.

Perry and his colleagues report the findings in the July 23 online issue of Nature.

Combing through data on more than 180,000 women, the researchers found that girls vary widely in the age at which they start menstruating. Some start as early as age 8, while others start in high school. Exercise levels, nutrition and
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