Cancer gene mutation linked to earlier menopause: study

Reuters Middle East

Jan 30 (Reuters) - Women who carry the BRCA mutations tied

to breast and ovarian cancer may hit menopause a few years

earlier than other women, according to a U.S. study of nearly a

thousand women.

Doctors already discuss with those women whether they want

immediate surgery to remove their ovaries and breasts, or if

they want to start a family first and hold off on ovary removal.

"Now they have an additional issue to deal with," said

Mitchell Rosen, who worked on the study at the University of

California, San Francisco Medical Center.

An estimated one in 600 U.S. women carries the BRCA1 or

BRCA2 gene mutation.

Those mutations greatly increase the risk of breast and

ovarian cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute, a

woman's chance of getting breast cancer at some point in her

life increases from 12 to 60 percent with a BRCA mutation, and

ovarian cancer from 1.4 percent to between 15 and 40 percent.

What has been less well studied is whether those mutations

also affect a woman's egg stores and her chance of getting


For the study, which appeared in the journal Cancer, the

researchers surveyed 382 California women who carried the BRCA1

or BRCA2 mutation and another 765 women who weren't known


The study team focused specifically on women who went

through menopause naturally, and not those who had their ovaries

removed before menopause.

Women with the genetic mutations said they'd stopped getting

their periods at age 50, on average, compared to age 53 for

other women. The youngest natural menopause, at age 46, came for

women with a BRCA mutation who were also heavy smokers, Rosen

and his colleagues reported.

Their study only included white women, so it's unknown

whether the findings apply to other racial and ethnic groups.

It's also not clear whether mutation carriers had any trouble

conceiving, although it's more likely, they said.

But the last thing BRCA mutation carriers need is to have

another thing to seriously worry about, said Ellen Matloff,

director of cancer genetic counseling at the Yale Cancer Center

in New Haven, Connecticut.

Those women are already advised to get their ovaries taken

out b y age 40, which puts a "huge burden" on them to find a

partner and start a family, she said.

"This study does not mean that you can't have children, and

it doesn't mean that you have less time than you thought you

did," said Matloff, who added that more research will be needed

to confirm these findings and their impact, if any.

Almost all women who carry the mutations have their ovaries

removed surgically before going through natural menopause

anyway, she added.


(Reporting from New York by Genevra Pittman at Reuters Health;

editing by Elaine Lies)