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Very Early Menopause Could Raise Odds for Breast, Ovarian Cancers
  • Posted June 4, 2024

Very Early Menopause Could Raise Odds for Breast, Ovarian Cancers

Menopause before the age of 40 could raise a woman's long-term risk for breast or ovarian cancers, new research suggests.

Besides that, "there is also higher risk of breast, prostate and colon cancer in relatives of these women" noted study author Dr. Corrine Welt. She's chief of endocrinology, metabolism and diabetes at the University of Utah Health in Salt Lake City.

Menopause before the age of 40 is rare, and is sometimes clinically known as "primary ovarian insufficiency" -- a shutdown of normal ovarian function prior to a woman's 40s.

In the new study, Welt's team tracked the health histories of 613 Utah women with primary ovarian insufficiency and 165 women who experienced early menopause. The researchers looked at the women's medical histories between 1995 and 2021.

Women who underwent early menopause experienced double the odds for a breast cancer versus women who went through menopause at a more typical time, the research showed.

The risk for ovarian cancer nearly quadrupled in the early menopause group, Welt's group added.

They also looked at genealogy information from the Utah Population Database to find the relatives of each of the women, and their medical histories.

Risks for breast cancer jumped by 30% among second-degree relatives (i.e. aunts, uncles, grandparents, nieces or nephews, etc.) of women who underwent very early menopause, the researchers found.

Second-degree relatives also had a 50% higher risk of getting ovarian cancer.

Men were also affected: Prostate cancer risk rose by up to 60% among first-, second-, and third-degree relatives (i.e., great grandfathers, first cousins), the study found.

Welt said that women who find themselves in a higher cancer risk bracket should undergo regular screening.

The findings were presented Monday at the Endocrine Society's annual meeting in Boston. Such research should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

“Women who have infertility from low egg numbers or experience early menopause should make sure they are regularly screened for breast cancer, especially if they have family members with cancer,” Welt advised in a meeting news release. “Doctors who practice general medicine, gynecology and fertility treatment should be aware that early menopause increases risk for a number of diseases, and they should now be aware that breast cancer may be one of these diseases to watch for.”

More information:

Find out more about primary ovarian insufficiency at the National Institutes of Health.

SOURCE: Endocrine Society, news release, June 3, 2024

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