Ask Your Mum: Genetics and the Onset of Perimenopause

by WV Marshall

Remember the first time you opened your mouth and something your mother used to say came out? Remember how SHOCKED you were?

Women have more in common with their moms besides traits such as generosity or work ethic, mannerisms or that love of coffee. Numerous studies confirm the role of genetics in determining a woman’s age at menopause, the North American Menopause Society said.

Also, a new study not only reconfirms the genetic link but also suggests a link to familial longevity, NAMS said of the study published on its website in June.

The age of menopause is clinically defined as 12 months after the final menstrual period, generally at about 52 years. But thousands of women every year push past that average of 52 years and enter menopause later in life, or naturally experience menopause earlier, the research indicated.

While menopause can occur earlier due to various reasons such as smoking, chemotherapy or an elevated body mass index, “the age of menopause is generally accepted to be most influenced by family history,” NAMS said in a news release.

“So, if your mother experienced her menopause early, chances are you will also begin the transition earlier in life,” the association said.

The goal of the June study focused on reproductive life was to identify genetic variants associated with the delayed age of menopause based on familial longevity.

Results were based on a meta-analysis of several larger studies that found that women who were able to have children beyond age 40 were 4 times more likely than average women of living to at least age 100 and that women who had children at age 35 years or older were 1.5 times more likely to live past 100 years.

The study’s findings provided further evidence for genetic basis of age of menopause.

Also, the discovery of new variants indicates that perhaps the genetic mechanisms of age of menopause are linked to human longevity.

“Genetic variants associated with later menopause have been found to be associated with longer life,” said JoAnn Pinkerton, NAMS executive director. “Although early menarche and total number of reproductive years have not been associated with slower aging, later menopause [longer reproductive potential] appears to be associated with slower aging.”