The menopause is normally something that affects women during their early 50s, but for around one in 20 it happens much sooner. Early menopause officially means starting the menopause before the age of 46, but some women may be affected as early as in their mid-30s. And for those who are putting off having a family until they're a bit older, that can come as a nasty shock.
Currently there's not an awful lot you can do to accurately predict when you'll start the menopause. Ultrasound scans can help determine how many eggs are in your ovaries, but you need regular tests to determine how quickly the number of eggs you produce is falling (which is an indication of how close you are to the menopause).
Now, however, scientists think they're a step closer to developing a simple test that can predict a woman's risk for an early menopause.
Writing in the journal Human Molecular Genetics, researchers from the University of Essex and the Institute of Cancer Research claim they've discovered four genes that appear to be linked to early menopause. And by testing for the presence of one or more of these four genes they claim it could predict how high your risk is for going through the menopause early.
The researchers compared the genetic make-up of 2,000 women who had been through early menopause with another 2,000 who had not. They discovered just having one of the four genes in question suggests your risk for early menopause could be higher than normal.
Are developments like these a good thing? Or should we just let nature run its course?
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