THURSDAY, Jan. 26 (HealthDay News) -- New genetic factors associated with a woman's age when she begins menopause have been identified by an international team of researchers.
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Researchers identified 13 loci (specific location of a gene on a chromosome) linked with immune function and DNA repair, which have an effect on when menopause begins, said the researchers from the Boston University Schools of Public Health and Medicine and colleagues.
They also confirmed four previously established loci.
For most women, menopause -- the term for the end of reproductive function of the ovaries -- occurs in the early 50s.
The study was published online Jan. 22 in the journal Nature Genetics.
Most previous studies examining age of onset of menopause have zeroed in on genes associated with the estrogen-production pathway or vascular components, the researchers said.
"Our findings demonstrate the role of genes which regulate DNA repair and immune function, as well as genes affecting neuroendocrine pathways of ovarian function in regulating age at menopause, indicating the process of aging is involved in both somatic and germ line aging," the study authors said.
The new findings "bring us closer to understanding the genetic basis for the timing of menopause. They may also provide clues to the genetic basis of early onset or premature menopause and reduced fertility," team co-leader Kathryn Lunetta, a professor of biostatistics at the BU School of Public Health, said in a university news release.
"We hope that as a better understanding of the biologic effects of these menopause-related variants are uncovered, we will gain new insights into the connections between menopause and cardiovascular disease, breast cancer, osteoporosis and other traits related to aging, and that this will provide avenues for prevention and treatment of these conditions," Lunetta said.
-- Robert Preidt
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SOURCE: Boston University Schools of Public Health and Medicine, news release, Jan. 23, 2012