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Familial concordance for age at menarche: analyses from the Breakthrough Generations Study


Miss Danielle Morris, Section of Epidemiology, Sir Richard Doll Building, Institute of Cancer Research, 15 Cotswold Road, Sutton, Surrey SM2 5NG, UK.


Morris DH, Jones ME, Schoemaker MJ, Ashworth A, Swerdlow AJ. Familial concordance for age at menarche: analyses from the Breakthrough Generations Study. Paediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology 2011; 25: 306–311.

Age at menarche is correlated within families, but estimates of the heritability of menarcheal age have a wide range (0.45–0.95). We examined the familial resemblance for age at menarche and the extent to which this is due to genetic and shared environmental factors. Between 2003 and 2010 data were retrospectively collected by questionnaire from participants within the UK-based Breakthrough Generations Study. These analyses included 25 970 female participants aged 16–98 with at least one female relative who was also a study participant. A woman's menarche was significantly delayed for each yearly increase in the menarcheal age of her monozygotic twin (average increase = 7.2 months, P < 0.001), dizygotic twin (average increase = 3.0 months, P = 0.03), older sister (average increase = 3.3 months, P < 0.001), mother (average increase = 3.4 months, P < 0.001), maternal grandmother (average increase = 1.5 months, P = 0.04), maternal aunt (average increase = 1.4 months, P < 0.001) and paternal aunt (average increase = 3.0 months, P < 0.001). There was not a significant association between the menarcheal ages of half-sister pairs or of paternal grandmother–granddaughter pairs, based on small numbers. Heritability was estimated as 0.57 [95% confidence interval 0.53, 0.61]. Shared environmental factors did not have an effect in the model. In conclusion, approximately half of the variation in age at menarche was attributable to additive genetic effects with the remainder attributable to non-shared environmental effects.