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Br J Cancer. 2010 Nov 23;103(11):1760-4. doi: 10.1038/sj.bjc.6605978. Epub 2010 Nov 2.

Determinants of age at menarche in the UK: analyses from the Breakthrough Generations Study.

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  • 1Section of Epidemiology, Institute of Cancer Research, Sir Richard Doll Building, 15 Cotswold Road, Sutton, Surrey SM2 5NG, UK.



Early menarche increases breast cancer risk but, aside from weight, information on its determinants is limited.


Age at menarche data were collected retrospectively by questionnaire from 81,606 women aged 16-98, resident in the UK and participating in the Breakthrough Generations Study.


Menarche occurred earlier in women who had a low birthweight (P(trend)<0.001), were singletons (P<0.001), had prenatal exposure to pre-eclampsia (P<0.001) or maternal smoking (P=0.01), were not breastfed (P(trend)=0.03), were non-white (P<0.001), were heavy (P(trend)<0.001) or tall (P(trend)<0.001) compared with their peers at age 7 and exercised little as a child (P(trend)<0.001). Menarcheal age increased with number of siblings (P<0.001) independently of birth order, and had an inverse association with birth order after adjustment for sibship size (P<0.001). In a multivariate model, birthweight, ethnicity, weight, height, exercise, sibship size and birth order remained significant, and maternal age at birth became significant (positive association, P<0.001).


Age at menarche was influenced by both pre- and post-natal factors, and these factors may affect breast cancer risk through this route.

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