MedWire News: Researchers have found an association between childhood abuse and age at menarche onset, they report in the Journal of Adolescent Health.
Renée Boynton-Jarrett (Boston University, Massachusetts, USA) and colleagues found that sexual abuse in childhood led to a significantly increased risk for early-onset menarche (before the age of 11 years), while childhood physical abuse led to an elevated risk for late onset menarche (after 15 years of age).
"In our study child abuse was associated with both accelerated and delayed age at menarche and importantly, these associations vary by type of abuse, which suggest that child abuse does not have a homogenous effect on health outcomes," commented Boynton-Jarrett in a press statement.
Her team found that compared with women who reported no childhood abuse, women who reported forced sexual touching in childhood had a 20% higher risk for early-onset menarche. Women who reported forced sexual activity in childhood had a 49% higher risk for early-onset menarche than those who reported no childhood abuse.
Women who reported experiencing severe physical abuse (defined as being choked or burned, physically attacked, or kicked, bitten, or punched more than once) as a child also had a 22% higher risk for starting their menstrual periods before the age of 11 years compared with women who reported no abuse during childhood.
The researchers found a dose-response association between severity of physical abuse and risk for late menarche. Indeed, compared with women who had no history of childhood abuse, those who reported mild physical abuse (being kicked, bitten, or punched once, hit with something once, or any frequency of being pushed, grabbed or shoved) had a 17% higher risk for late-onset menarche.
Women who reported moderate physical abuse (being physically attacked once or being hit with something more than once) had a 20% higher risk for late-onset menarche, while women who reported severe physical abuse had a 50% higher risk.
By contrast, sexual abuse was not significantly associated with risk for late menarche.
Women who were exposed to both physical and sexual abuse as children had a 39% higher risk for early menarche than those exposed to either physical or sexual abuse alone.
The findings of the study are important as early menarche has been linked to an increased risk for cardiovascular disease, metabolic dysfunction, cancer, and depression, while late menarche has been associated with low bone mineral density and depression.
"We need to work toward better understanding how child abuse influences health and translate these research findings into clinical practice and public health strategies to improve the wellbeing of survivors of child abuse," remarked Boynton-Jarrett.
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