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Has Age at Menarche Changed? Results from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 1999–2004

  • Margaret A. McDowell
    Correspondence
    Address correspondence to: Margaret A. McDowell, M.P.H., R.D., National Center for Health Statistics, 3311 Toledo Road, Room 4335, Hyattsville, MD 20782.
    Affiliations
    National Center for Health Statistics, Division of Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Hyattsville, Maryland
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  • Debra J. Brody
    Affiliations
    National Center for Health Statistics, Division of Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Hyattsville, Maryland
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  • Jeffery P. Hughes
    Affiliations
    National Center for Health Statistics, Division of Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Hyattsville, Maryland
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      Abstract

      Purpose

      To examine self-reported age at menarche in U.S. adults and the associations between age at menarche and race/ethnicity.

      Methods

      Data from 1999–2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) for 6788 females 20 years and over were analyzed. Self-reported age at first menses (in years) by birth year groups is reported overall and for Mexican Americans, non-Hispanic whites, and non-Hispanic blacks.

      Results

      Mean age at menarche in the United States declined over time from 13.3 years (95% CI: 13.2–13.5) in the oldest age group, those born prior to 1920, to 12.4 years (95% C.I. 12.2–12.5 years) in the youngest group, born between 1980 and 1984. Declines in age at menarche were observed for all race/ethnicity groups. Non-Hispanic black females had the largest decline in mean age at menarche from 13.6 years (95% CI: 13.1–14.1) in women born prior to 1920, to 12.2 years (95% CI: 11.8–12.6) in the 1980–84 birth cohort. Mean age at menarche among non-Hispanic white females declined from 13.3 years (13.1–13.6) in the pre-1920 birth cohort to 12.5 years (12.3–12.8) in the 1980–84 birth cohort.

      Conclusions

      Significant declines in the mean age of menarche for U.S. females occurred overall and for all race/ethnic groups examined. Mean age of menarche declined by .9 year overall in women born before 1920 compared to women born in 1980–84; the declines in the mean age at menarche ranged from .7 to 1.4 years depending on the race/ethnicity group.

      Keywords

      See Editorial p. 201
      The onset of menarche is an important milestone in female sexual maturation. Earlier reports documented declines in the age of menarche in developed countries. Menarche occurred on average at 14 years in the early 1900s and declined to approximately 12.8 years by the late 1940s [
      • Zacharias L.
      • Wurtman R.J.
      Age at menarche: Genetic and environmental influences.
      ,
      • Wyshak G.
      • Frisch R.E.
      Evidence for secular trend in age of menarche.
      ]. Fredriks et al [
      • Fredriks A.M.
      • van Buuren S.
      • Burgmeijer R.J.
      • et al.
      Continuing positive secular growth change in the Netherlands 1955–97.
      ] reported declines in median age at menarche in Dutch girls of approximately one month per decade. Recent reports have noted that the declines in the age of onset of menses among U.S. females may be slowing [
      • Anderson S.E.
      • Dallal G.E.
      • Must A.
      Relative weight and race influence average age at menarche: Results from two nationally representative surveys of U.S. girls studied 25 years apart.
      ,
      • Chumlea W.
      • Schubert C.
      • Roche A.
      • et al.
      Age at menarche and racial comparisons.
      ]. A decline of approximately 2.5 months in the mean age of menarche was reported for U.S. females between 1963–70 and 1988–1994 [
      • Anderson S.E.
      • Dallal G.E.
      • Must A.
      Relative weight and race influence average age at menarche: Results from two nationally representative surveys of U.S. girls studied 25 years apart.
      ], and a further decline of approximately 2.4 months between 1988–94 and 1999–2002 [
      • Anderson S.E.
      • Must A.
      Interpreting the continued decline in the average age at menarche: Results from two nationally representative surveys of U.S. girls studied 10 years apart.
      ].
      Our interest in examining data on the onset of menarche in the U.S. population stems from a growing literature on health outcomes related to sexual maturation age, demographic changes in the U.S. population, and recent trends in overweight among U.S. children and adolescents. The increasing prevalence of adolescent overweight in the United States [
      • Troiano R.P.
      • Flegal K.M.
      Overweight children and adolescents: Description, epidemiology, and demographics.
      ,
      • Ogden C.L.
      • Flegal K.M.
      • Carroll M.D.
      • et al.
      Prevalence and trends in overweight among US children and adolescents, 1999–2000.
      ,
      • Hedley A.A.
      • Ogden C.L.
      • Johnson C.L.
      • et al.
      Prevalence of overweight and obesity among US children, adolescents and adults, 1999–2004.
      ] appears to coincide with secular trends in pubertal timing [
      • Wattigney W.A.
      • Srinivasan S.R.
      • Chen W.
      • et al.
      Secular trend of earlier onset of menarche with increasing obesity in black and white girls: The Bogalusa Heart Study.
      ,
      • Davison K.K.
      • Susman E.J.
      • Birch L.L.
      Percent body fat at age 5 predicts earlier pubertal development among girls at age 9.
      ]. Increased adiposity may trigger estrogen production, leading to earlier onset of puberty in girls [
      • Fredriks A.M.
      • van Buuren S.
      • Burgmeijer R.J.
      • et al.
      Continuing positive secular growth change in the Netherlands 1955–97.
      ,
      • Wattigney W.A.
      • Srinivasan S.R.
      • Chen W.
      • et al.
      Secular trend of earlier onset of menarche with increasing obesity in black and white girls: The Bogalusa Heart Study.
      ,
      • Davison K.K.
      • Susman E.J.
      • Birch L.L.
      Percent body fat at age 5 predicts earlier pubertal development among girls at age 9.
      ,
      • Garn S.M.
      • LaVelle M.
      • Pilkington J.J.
      Comparisons of fatness in premenarcheal and postmenarcheal girls of the same age.
      ,
      • Dorn L.D.
      • Dahl R.E.
      • Williamson D.E.
      • et al.
      Developmental markers in adolescence: Implications for studies of pubertal processes.
      ,
      • Himes J.H.
      • Obarzanek E.
      • Baranowski T.
      • et al.
      Early sexual maturation, body composition, and obesity in African American girls.
      ]. This report examines age and race/ethnicity trends in age at menarche for U.S. adults using data from the 1999–2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).

      Methods

      The NHANES is conducted to assess the health and nutritional status of the civilian, non-institutionalized U.S. population [

      CDC, National Center for Health Statistics. Introduction to NHANES. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/about/major/nhanes/intro_mec.htm. Accessed March 1, 2006.

      ]. NHANES data are obtained using standardized household interview and health examination methods [

      CDC, National Center for Health Statistics. Introduction to NHANES. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/about/major/nhanes/intro_mec.htm. Accessed March 1, 2006.

      ,

      CDC, National Center for Health Statistics. NHANES Analytic Guidelines. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/about/major/nhanes/1nhanes2003-2004/analytical_guidelines.htm. Accessed March 1, 2006.

      ]. NHANES were conducted on a periodic basis between 1971 and 1994. A special study of three Hispanic subgroups living in the United States was conducted during the Hispanic HANES (HHANES), 1982–84; Mexican Americans living in the southwest United States, Cubans in Dade County, Florida, and Puerto Ricans living in the New York City metropolitan area were included. The HHANES data are not nationally representative, however. NHANES became a continuous survey in 1999 and nationally representative samples of Mexican Americans were included in the survey samples. Continuous NHANES public data release files are released in 2-year survey cycles. We combined data from the first three continuous NHANES cycles, 1999–2000, 2001–2002, and 2003–2004 to examine trends in the age at menarche.

      Sample description

      For each 2-year survey, nationally representative samples of the civilian, noninstitutionalized U.S. household population were selected using a complex, stratified, multistage probability cluster sampling design [

      CDC, National Center for Health Statistics. NHANES Analytic Guidelines. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/about/major/nhanes/1nhanes2003-2004/analytical_guidelines.htm. Accessed March 1, 2006.

      ]. Selected population subgroups were over sampled in NHANES to improve the reliability of statistical estimates derived from the surveys. The over sampled subgroups in NHANES 1999–2004 included Mexican Americans, non-Hispanic blacks, adolescents 12–19 years of age, pregnant women, and persons with low income. Descriptions of the sample design, data collection methods, and protocols are provided elsewhere [

      CDC, National Center for Health Statistics. NHANES Analytic Guidelines. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/about/major/nhanes/1nhanes2003-2004/analytical_guidelines.htm. Accessed March 1, 2006.

      ,

      CDC, National Center for Health Statistics. NHANES Datasets and Related Documentation. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/about/major/nhanes/datalink.htm. Accessed March 1, 2006.

      ]. Following a home interview, subjects were examined in mobile examination centers (MECs); the reproductive history questionnaire was administered during a private health interview at the MEC. The NCHS Ethics Review Board approved the survey protocols and informed consent was obtained for all subjects.

      Covariates

      Year of birth was used to create birth cohort groups for this analysis. The years of birth were grouped into eight birth cohorts. The oldest birth cohort was labeled “before 1920” and the youngest group was labeled “1980–84”; six other birth year cohorts were grouped by decade. The birth cohorts used for this analysis were: before 1920, 1920–29, 1930–39, 1940–49, 1950–59, 1960–69, 1970–79, and 1980–84.
      Age at menarche was ascertained for 6788 subjects. The reproductive health questionnaire included a question that is worded as follows: “How old were you when you had your first menstrual period?” Responses to the question were given in whole years. If respondents reported that they did not know the exact age when their periods began, they were asked to specify an age range. The age range choices were: younger than 10 years, 10–12 years, 13–15 years, or 16 years or older. A total of 183 subjects reported a range value for age at menarche. For the analysis, we used the midpoint of the age range for the age at menarche, a value of 9 years if age range was <10 years, and a value of 16 years if the age range 16 years or older was reported. Seventeen respondents did not know their age or age range, and data for one 58-year-old respondent indicated that she had not started her menstrual cycle yet. These eighteen respondents were deleted from the analysis.
      Race/ethnicity was self-reported using the recommended federal statistical reporting guidelines for race/ethnicity [
      Office of Management and Budget
      Race and Ethnic Standards for Federal Statistics and Administrative Reporting.
      ]. The NHANES 1999–2004 data were reported for Mexican Americans, non-Hispanic whites, and non-Hispanic blacks. The results for the “other races” group, including “multiple race” and “other Hispanic” were included in the total sample analyses, but were not reported separately because of insufficient sample sizes and the heterogeneity of the “other races” group.

      Statistical analysis

      Statistical analysis was carried out using SAS [
      SAS Institute
      ] and SAS-callable SUDAAN [
      Research Triangle Institute
      ]. All estimates were weighted using the examination sampling weights provided with the NHANES data files. The sampling weights account for the unequal probabilities of selection, person-level non-response, and a post-stratification adjustment to the estimated U.S. population [

      CDC, National Center for Health Statistics. NHANES Analytic Guidelines. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/about/major/nhanes/1nhanes2003-2004/analytical_guidelines.htm. Accessed March 1, 2006.

      ]. Six-year examination sample weights were derived using an approach described in the NHANES analytic guidelines [

      CDC, National Center for Health Statistics. NHANES Analytic Guidelines. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/about/major/nhanes/1nhanes2003-2004/analytical_guidelines.htm. Accessed March 1, 2006.

      ].
      Means and 95% confidence intervals (CI) by birth cohorts overall and by race/ethnicity category were calculated using SUDAAN (Table 1). Linear regression was used to test for a linear trend in age at menarche with the birth cohorts coded as 1 for before 1920, to 8 for 1980–1984. The F-statistic with Satterthwaite correction for degrees of freedom was used to test statistical significance. A p-value of <.05 was used to define statistical significance. The cumulative percent achieving menarche by age was calculated for each birth-year group.
      Table 1Age at menarche for U.S females 20 years and older by year of birth and race/ethnicity group: United States 1999–2004
      Year of birthTotal
      Total includes race/ethnicity groups “Other Hispanic” and “Other including multiracial.”
      Mexican AmericanNon-Hispanic WhiteNon-Hispanic Black
      nMean (95% CI)nMean (95% CI)nMean (95% CI)nMean (95% CI)
      Before 192040313.3 (13.1–13.5)2913.2 (12.6–13.7)30513.3 (13.1–13.5)4313.6 (13.1–14.1)
      1920–192971413.2 (13.1–13.4)12113.2 (12.8–13.7)45313.1 (13.0–13.3)10713.4 (13.1–13.8)
      1930–193997512.8 (12.7–13.0)26213.0 (12.8–13.2)46312.8 (12.6–12.9)18213.1 (12.8–13.4)
      1940–194990012.7 (12.5–12.8)19112.5 (12.1–12.9)46212.6 (12.4–12.8)16112.9 (12.5–13.2)
      1950–1959107512.7 (12.6–12.8)24812.6 (12.5–12.8)49012.7 (12.5–12.8)24612.4 (12.2–12.7)
      1960–1969114312.7 (12.6–12.8)25012.6 (12.4–12.9)53612.8 (12.6–12.9)25012.7 (12.4–12.9)
      1970–1979130212.5 (12.4–12.6)34212.4 (12.2–12.7)61112.6 (12.5–12.8)21812.2 (11.9–12.5)
      1980–198427612.4 (12.2–12.6)7212.2 (11.5–12.9)11112.5 (12.2–12.8)6712.2 (11.8–12.6)
      p-value
      p-value for linear trend.
      <.001.005<.001<.001
      a Total includes race/ethnicity groups “Other Hispanic” and “Other including multiracial.”
      b p-value for linear trend.

      Results

      Sample sizes, means, and 95% confidence intervals (CI) are shown by birth-year group and race/ethnicity (Table 1). A significant decline in the mean age at onset from 13.3 (CI: 13.2, 13.5) years in the pre-1920 birth cohort to 12.4 years (CI: 12.2, 12.5) in the 1980–84 birth cohort occurred. Significant declines occurred in the mean age at onset for all three race/ethnicity groups as well. Mean ages for the 1980–84 cohort were one year lower for Mexican Americans, .8 years lower for non-Hispanic whites, and 1.4 years lower for non-Hispanic black females. In the 1980–84 cohort, the mean age of onset was the same for non-Hispanic Blacks and Mexican Americans (12.2 years) while the mean age at onset for non-Hispanic whites was 12.5 years. The cumulative percentages of age at menarche for females by birth year group are shown in Figure 1. For simplicity, four of the eight birth-year groups examined in the analysis are shown to illustrate the declines in menarcheal age over time.
      Figure thumbnail gr1
      Figure 1Cumulative percentages of age at menarche by birth-year group: U.S. females 20 years and older, 1999–2004.

      Discussion

      The NHANES provides cross-sectional “snapshots” of population health characteristics, including reproductive health milestones such as the age of menarche. NHANES estimates reflect changes in the demographic and health characteristics of the U.S. population. This report examined trends in age at menarche in a national probability sample of adults. The analysis revealed statistically significant declines in mean age at menarche overall, and among three race/ethnicity groups. Our findings are consistent with the declines in age at menarche reported by other researchers using different populations and different methods [
      • Zacharias L.
      • Wurtman R.J.
      Age at menarche: Genetic and environmental influences.
      ,
      • Fredriks A.M.
      • van Buuren S.
      • Burgmeijer R.J.
      • et al.
      Continuing positive secular growth change in the Netherlands 1955–97.
      ,
      • Anderson S.E.
      • Dallal G.E.
      • Must A.
      Relative weight and race influence average age at menarche: Results from two nationally representative surveys of U.S. girls studied 25 years apart.
      ,
      • Kimm S.Y.S.
      • Barton B.A.
      • Obarzanek E.
      • et al.
      racial divergence in adiposity during adolescence: The NHLBI Growth and Health Study.
      ,
      • Biro F.M.
      • McMahon R.P.
      • Striegel-Moore R.
      • et al.
      Impact of pubertal maturation on growth in black and white female adolescents: The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Growth and Health Study.
      ,
      • Rosell M.
      • Appleby P.
      • Key T.
      Height, age at menarche, body weight and body mass index in lifelong vegetarians.
      ]. We compared our findings to results reported by researchers in the United States and Europe who used prospective [
      • Kimm S.Y.S.
      • Barton B.A.
      • Obarzanek E.
      • et al.
      racial divergence in adiposity during adolescence: The NHLBI Growth and Health Study.
      ], status quo [
      • Anderson S.E.
      • Dallal G.E.
      • Must A.
      Relative weight and race influence average age at menarche: Results from two nationally representative surveys of U.S. girls studied 25 years apart.
      ], and retrospective reporting methods [
      • Rosell M.
      • Appleby P.
      • Key T.
      Height, age at menarche, body weight and body mass index in lifelong vegetarians.
      ] to examine trends in the age at menarche.
      The prospective inquiry method entails asking questions of non-menstruating samples of girls at regular intervals of time until menstruation occurs. This method was used in the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Growth and Health Study (GHS) reported by Kimm et al [
      • Kimm S.Y.S.
      • Barton B.A.
      • Obarzanek E.
      • et al.
      racial divergence in adiposity during adolescence: The NHLBI Growth and Health Study.
      ] to study the development of obesity in black and white girls during adolescence. Girls between the ages of 9 and 10 years of age (comparable to the 1970–79 NHANES birth cohort) were recruited in 1987. The mean age at menarche among white and black GHS participants was 12.7 years and 12.0 years, respectively [
      • Kimm S.Y.S.
      • Barton B.A.
      • Obarzanek E.
      • et al.
      racial divergence in adiposity during adolescence: The NHLBI Growth and Health Study.
      ]. The NHANES 1999–2004 mean ages (95% CI) at onset for the 1970–1979 birth cohort were 12.6 years (CI: 12.5, 12.8) and 12.3 years (CI: 12.0, 12.6), for non-Hispanic white and black females, respectively.
      The second approach, the status quo method, was used by Anderson et al [
      • Anderson S.E.
      • Dallal G.E.
      • Must A.
      Relative weight and race influence average age at menarche: Results from two nationally representative surveys of U.S. girls studied 25 years apart.
      ] to report results based on National Health Examination Survey (NHES) Cycles II (1963–65) and III (1966-70) and NHANES III, 1988–94. This approach uses data obtained by querying females of reproductive age to determine whether their first menstrual period occurred and obtaining their exact age. Results for girls between the ages of 10 and 15 years were included in the analytic sample, and cumulative percentages of subjects achieving menarche are computed by year of age. Probit analysis was used to determine the mean age at menarche during both survey periods. Mean age (95% CI) at menarche declined from 12.75 (95% CI: 12.69, 12.82) in NHES to 12.54 years (95% CI: 12.44, 12.64) in NHANES III. The NHANES 1999–2004 total sample mean was 12.7 years for the 1940–49 and 1950–59 birth cohorts, which are the birth cohorts that are closest to the NHES subjects. The NHANES III females 10–15 years would have been born between 1973 and 1984; the mean age at menarche for NHANES 1999–2004 women born between 1970 and 1989 was 12.4–12.5 years (95% CI: 12.2, 12.6), which is also consistent with results reported by Anderson et al [
      • Anderson S.E.
      • Dallal G.E.
      • Must A.
      Relative weight and race influence average age at menarche: Results from two nationally representative surveys of U.S. girls studied 25 years apart.
      ]. A recent report that was based on a comparison of NHANES III and NHANES 1999–2002 data reported that the mean age at menarche for U.S. girls 9–15 years declined 2.3 months from 12.53 years (95% CI: 12.43, 12.63) to 12.34 years (95% CI: 12.24 to 12.45 years) between 1988–94 and 1999–2002 [
      • Anderson S.E.
      • Must A.
      Interpreting the continued decline in the average age at menarche: Results from two nationally representative surveys of U.S. girls studied 10 years apart.
      ].
      Our analysis used a third method that is based on retrospective reporting. Women who are past the menarcheal age are queried so as not to bias mean menarcheal age downward if women who have not begun menstruating are excluded. This method was used in a study with British females aged 20 years and older for the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC-Oxford) Study conducted between 1993 and 1999 [
      • Rosell M.
      • Appleby P.
      • Key T.
      Height, age at menarche, body weight and body mass index in lifelong vegetarians.
      ]. The EPIC-Oxford study sample was comprised of women who were born between 1940 and 1970. The mean age at menarche reported for the study was 12.9 years (standard deviation: 1.5 year). The mean menarcheal age for NHANES 1999–2004 non-Hispanic white females in the 1940–1969 birth cohorts ranged from 12.6 to 12.7 years (CI: 12.3, 12.9).
      The limitations of our analysis include the use of retrospective information on age at menarche, especially for older women, and the cross-sectional nature of the NHANES data. Overall, 93% of women reported age at menarche in years. Higher percentages of women in the two oldest birth cohorts, however, reported age at menarche using age ranges compared to the younger birth cohorts. The validity of long-term recall of physiological events, including year of menarche, has been assessed by others [
      • Must A.
      • Phillips S.M.
      • Naumova E.N.
      • et al.
      Recall of early menstrual history and menarchal body size: After 30 years how well do women remember?.
      ,
      • Maclure M.
      • Travis L.B.
      • Willett W.C.
      • et al.
      A prospective cohort study of nutrient intake and age at menarche.
      ,
      • Koprowski C.
      • Ross R.K.
      • Mack W.J.
      • et al.
      Diet, body size and menarche in a multiethnic cohort.
      ,
      • Freedman D.S.
      • Khan L.K.
      • Serdula M.K.
      • et al.
      Relation of age at menarche to race Time period, and anthropometric dimensions: The Bogalusa Heart Study.
      ]. A 30-year follow-up of adults who participated in the Newton Girls Study reported that subjects’ recall of age at menarche was .08 years earlier, on average, than their actual age at menarche. Mean absolute error in recalled age at menarche (recalled-original) was .62 years, on average, and varied nonlinearly across menarcheal ages [
      • Must A.
      • Phillips S.M.
      • Naumova E.N.
      • et al.
      Recall of early menstrual history and menarchal body size: After 30 years how well do women remember?.
      ]. Results from a longitudinal growth study reported that 84% of women 50 years of age recalled their age at menarche within 1 year of the actual event [
      • Casey V.A.
      • Dwer J.T.
      • Coleman K.A.
      • et al.
      Accuracy of recall by middle-aged participants in a longitudinal study of their body size and indices of maturation earlier in life.
      ]. Nichols et al examined secular trends in age at menarche, age at menopause, and reproductive life span within a population-based cohort of U.S. women who resided in three U.S. states [
      • Nichols H.B.
      • Trentham-Dietz A.
      • Hampton J.M.
      • et al.
      From menarche to menopause: Trends among US women born from 1912 to 1969.
      ]. In this study, mean age at menarche decreased by 6 months for women born between 1910 and 1949 (13.1 vs. 12.7 years; p < .001), but increased to 13.0 years among women born between 1960 and 1969 (p < .001), a reversal of the downward trend of age at menarche observed within developed countries. Although substudy results revealed that responses to questions about age at menarche and age at menopause were highly reproducible, the authors acknowledged that the reported variation in self-reported age at menarche and menopause increases with increasing time since menopause [
      • Nichols H.B.
      • Trentham-Dietz A.
      • Hampton J.M.
      • et al.
      From menarche to menopause: Trends among US women born from 1912 to 1969.
      ].
      Another limitation is that the temporal sequence in the events that may contribute to the observed declines in age at menarche cannot be established with these cross-sectional data. The role of overweight and obesity on menarcheal onset could not be determined because there is no information on NHANES subjects’ body mass index status during adolescence. Other prospective studies have reported that sexual maturation is associated with body size [
      • Biro F.M.
      • McMahon R.P.
      • Striegel-Moore R.
      • et al.
      Impact of pubertal maturation on growth in black and white female adolescents: The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Growth and Health Study.
      ,
      • Maclure M.
      • Travis L.B.
      • Willett W.C.
      • et al.
      A prospective cohort study of nutrient intake and age at menarche.
      ,
      • Koprowski C.
      • Ross R.K.
      • Mack W.J.
      • et al.
      Diet, body size and menarche in a multiethnic cohort.
      ], ethnicity [
      • Wattigney W.A.
      • Srinivasan S.R.
      • Chen W.
      • et al.
      Secular trend of earlier onset of menarche with increasing obesity in black and white girls: The Bogalusa Heart Study.
      ,
      • Koprowski C.
      • Ross R.K.
      • Mack W.J.
      • et al.
      Diet, body size and menarche in a multiethnic cohort.
      ,
      • Freedman D.S.
      • Khan L.K.
      • Serdula M.K.
      • et al.
      Relation of age at menarche to race Time period, and anthropometric dimensions: The Bogalusa Heart Study.
      ], and exposure to environmental toxicants including polychlorinated aromatic hydrocarbons (PCAHs) [
      • Den Hond E.
      • Roels H.A.
      • Hoppenbrouwers K.
      • et al.
      Sexual maturation in relation to polychlorinated aromatic hydrocarbons: Sharpe and Skakkebaek’s hypothesis revisited.
      ], polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and polybrominated biphenyls (PBBs) [
      • Blanck H.M.
      • Marcus M.
      • Tolbert P.E.
      • et al.
      Age at menarche and Tanner stage in girls exposed in utero and postnatally to polybromated biphenyl.
      ], and dioxins [
      • Brouwer A.
      • Ahlborg U.G.
      • Vendenberg M.
      • et al.
      Functional aspects of development toxicity of polyhalogenated aromatic-hydrocarbons in experimental animals and human infants.
      ]. Additionally, menarcheal age may be an etiologic factor for chronic diseases such as osteoporosis [
      • Ribot C.
      • Pouilles J.M.
      • Bonnea M.
      • et al.
      Assessment of the risk of post-menopausal osteoporosis using clinical factors.
      ], cancer [
      • Tavani A.
      • Negri E.
      • Francheschi S.
      • et al.
      Risk factors for epithelial ovarian cancer in women under age 45.
      ,
      • Stoll B.A.
      • Vatten L.J.
      • Kvinnsland S.
      Does early physical maturity influence breast cancer risk?.
      ], and cardiovascular disease [
      • La Rosa J.C.
      Lipids and cardiovascular disease: Do findings and therapy apply equally to men and women?.
      ]. This analysis used a unique approach to examine menarcheal trends in U.S. adults and provides national data on three race/ethnic groups, including Mexican American women 60 years of age and over.

      Acknowledgment

      The findings and conclusions in this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the funding agency.

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      Linked Article

      • The Decline in the Age of Menarche in the United States: Should We Be Concerned?
        Journal of Adolescent HealthVol. 40Issue 3
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          Age of menarche has long interested researchers and governments. It is of continuing public health and social interest to know when females in a given population are reaching gonadal maturity, because the age changes with environmental and social changes. A girl’s first menarche is usually a somewhat public event, an observable and reasonably memorable occurrence, free from direct links to sexuality. Gonadal maturity in boys is also of interest but far less data are available due to the subtleties of measuring spermarche and ejaculation’s obvious entwinement with sexual behavior.
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