Evolution of age at menarche and at onset of regular cycling in a large cohort of French women.
Human reproduction (Oxford, England) 2002 ; 17: 228-32.
DOI : HALMS137811
PubMed ID : 11756393
PMCID : PMC2034601
Early exposure to ovarian hormones is considered to increase breast cancer incidence. The age at which the ovaries become functional is thus important.
We explored the evolution of age at first menstruation and at onset of regular cycling in 86 031 women participating in the E3N-EPIC cohort study, part of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer.
We observed an increase in mean age at menarche among women born between 1925 and 1930, followed by a steady decrease in the youngest birth cohorts. In contrast, age at onset of regular cycling increased gradually from 1925 onwards. There was thus a steady increase in the interval between age at menarche and at onset of regular cycling, mainly due to an increase in the percentage of women in whom regular cycling started at least 5 years after menarche (from 9.0% among women born in 1925-1929 to 20.8% in those born in 1945-1950). The increase in the interval between menarche and onset of regular cycling was even greater among women with a late menarche.
This increase might be due to a change in dietary intake and/or physical exercise aimed at achieving the slim silhouette desired by the younger generations.