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Menopause is still evolving due to women having children later in life.
Rama Singh, PhD
Recent study findings showed that menopause was still evolving due to women having children later in life.
The findings suggested it was inevitable that menopause would be delayed and could possibly cease to exist altogether if such a trend continued.
In fact, Rama Singh, PhD, and a team of investigators said that menopause was a genetic anomaly created by human behavior which can just as easily end with a change in human behavior.
“The fact that there is variation between individuals, and within and between populations and ethnic groups, tells us that menopause is a changing, evolving trait that is still very dynamic and that it can change,” Singh, from McMaster University in Canada, said in a statement.
Singh and colleagues conducted a cross-sectional analysis to understand the impact of changing patterns of delayed marriage and reproduction and to seek evidence as to whether menopause was still evolving. Even more, the team wanted a better understanding of characteristics of the menopause transition within and between ethnic populations.
The team used data on 747 middle-aged women obtained from the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation (SWAN) from 1996-2008. Women were 42-52 years old with an intact uterus, >1 ovary, non-use of exogenous hormones during the prior 3 months, and reported a menstrual period within the last 3 months.
Patients included self-identified as black or African American; non-Hispanic Caucasian; Chinese; Japanese; or Hispanic.
Women were categorized as either premenopausal (regular monthly cycles with such occurring in the past 3 months), perimenopausal (irregular menstrual cycles with bleeding in the last 12 months but not in the last 3 months), and menopausal (no menstruation for a minimum period of 12 months).
Questionnaires were used to collect menstrual characteristics.
The investigators determined the age of onset for perimenopause and menopause, and the duration of perimenopause for each participant. Perimenopause onset was determined by using the patient’s age they transitioned from premenopausal to perimenopausal, while menopausal age of onset was the age they transitioned from premenopausal or perimenopausal to menopausal.
Overall, participants varied in ethnicity, with a majority being Caucasian (354 women). All women were premenopausal at baseline and were either perimenopausal or menopausal by the tenth follow up visit.
A significant number of participants, ranging for 34% in the Japanese population to a high of 51.5% in Hispanic women, experienced sudden menopause.
The average age of perimenopause onset across all women was 51.79±2.51 years old. The mean age for perimenopause was almost the same, except for the Hispanic population which was lower by 2 years.
For menopause, the average age across the population was 52.63±2.48 years old. The mean age for the Hispanic population was once again lower by 2 years. The difference in the population could have been due to the slightly older age of the women participating in the study, the investigators wrote.
The Japanese women experienced both perimenopause and menopause the latest among the ethnicities present in the study population.
“Insight into the association between ethnic diversity and the characteristics of a woman’s menopause transition may provide evidence for the timing of the appearance of menopause in human evolution,” the authors wrote.
The findings showed potential for continued evolution and possibly delayed appearance of menopause in women, which could allow more time for family planning, the investigators concluded.
The study, “Is menopause still evolving? Evidence from a longitudinal study of multiethnic populations and its relevance to women’s health,” was published online in the journal BMC Women’s Health.