Scientists in the Netherlands have identified genetic factors which they believe are associated with the menopause.
It is the first time a genetic code has been linked to menopausal women and it is hoped the discovery, which was revealed at the annual meeting of the European Society of Human Genetics in Vienna, may lead to better infertility treatments.
Data from nine studies involving 10,339 menopausal women were analysed and researchers found 20 single letter changes in the genetic code that were associated with an early menopause.
The single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) variants were found at four sites on chromosomes 19 and 20, two of the coiled packages of DNA that house the genes.
Although the effect they have is unclear, scientists believe they influence the ovaries or the brain. Researcher Lisette Stolk, from Erasmus University in Rotterdam, said: ‘We found that the 20 SNPs were all related to a slightly earlier menopause, and women who had one of them experienced menopause nearly a year earlier than others.’
The team now plans to use a genome-wide association study on a much larger sample of women to identify more chromosomal sites, or loci, associated with the menopause.