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Association of the Age at Menarche with Site-Specific Cancer Risks in Pooled Data from Nine Cohorts.
Pubmed ID
33820799 (View this publication on the PubMed website)
Digital Object Identifier
Cancer Res. 2021 Apr 15; Volume 81 (Issue 8): Pages 2246-2255

Fuhrman BJ, Moore SC, Byrne C, Makhoul I, Kitahara CM, Berrington de González A, Linet MS, Weiderpass E, Adami HO, Freedman ND, Liao LM, Matthews CE, Stolzenberg-Solomon RZ, Gaudet MM, Patel AV, Lee IM, Buring JE, Wolk A, Larsson SC, Prizment AE, Robien K, Spriggs M, Check DP, Murphy N, Gunter MJ, Van Dusen HL, Ziegler RG, Hoover RN


The average age at menarche declined in European and U.S. populations during the 19th and 20th centuries. The timing of pubertal events may have broad implications for chronic disease risks in aging women. Here we tested for associations of recalled menarcheal age with risks of 19 cancers in 536,450 women [median age, 60 years (range, 31-39 years)] in nine prospective U.S. and European cohorts that enrolled participants from 1981 to 1998. Cox regression estimated multivariable-adjusted HRs and 95% confidence intervals (CI) for associations of the age at menarche with risk of each cancer in each cohort and random-effects meta-analysis was used to generate summary estimates for each cancer. Over a median 10 years of follow-up, 60,968 women were diagnosed with a first primary incident cancer. Inverse linear associations were observed for seven of 19 cancers studied. Each additional year in the age at menarche was associated with reduced risks of endometrial cancer (HR = 0.91; 95% CI, 0.89-0.94), liver cancer (HR = 0.92; 95% CI, 0.85-0.99), melanoma (HR = 0.95; 95% CI, 0.93-0.98), bladder cancer (HR = 0.96; 95% CI, 0.93-0.99), and cancers of the colon (HR = 0.97; 95% CI, 0.96-0.99), lung (HR = 0.98; 95% CI, 0.96-0.99), and breast (HR = 0.98; 95% CI, 0.93-0.99). All but one of these associations remained statistically significant following adjustment for baseline body mass index. Similarities in the observed associations between menarche and seven cancers suggest shared underlying causes rooted early in life. We propose as a testable hypothesis that early exposure to sex hormones increases mid-life cancer risks by altering functional capacities of stem cells with roles in systemic energy balance and tissue homeostasis. SIGNIFICANCE: Age at menarche is associated with risk for seven cancers in middle-aged women, and understanding the shared underlying causal pathways across these cancers may suggest new avenues for cancer prevention.

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