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Sons' puberty age linked to mothers' first period

Friday October 12th, 2018

The age at which young women have their first period is linked to their sons’ age at puberty – suggesting a genetic connection, researchers report today.

In what is the largest study to investigate this association in both sons and daughters, the research followed 15,822 children and found that the earlier their mothers had their first period, the earlier their sons started puberty. Similarly, the later they had their first period, the later their sons started puberty.

The study authors, from Aarhus University, Denmark, say their results, published in Human Reproduction, are consistent with other research that suggests that there is an overlap in the genes that influence the timing of puberty in both sons and daughters.

The findings build on previous studies that have linked mothers’ age at puberty with that of their daughters.

The team studied a group of children who were part of the Danish National Birth Cohort and who were born between 2000 and 2003 and followed up until October 2016.

In the study period, the mothers were interviewed twice during pregnancy and were asked to fill in a questionnaire when the children were seven. The mothers were asked about their age when they had their first period. From the age of 11 years, the children completed questionnaires every six months that included questions on puberty.

Dr Nis Brix, said: “We found that mothers who reported having their first menstrual bleed earlier than their peers had sons with signs of puberty starting earlier than their peers.

“The largest difference was when hair started growing in the armpits, which started, on average, approximately two and a half months earlier; their voices broke nearly two months earlier, acne started to develop nearly two months earlier and their first ejaculation of semen was nearly one and a half months earlier.

“If their mothers started puberty later than their peers, then the sons experienced first ejaculation, growth of armpit hair and acne development later than their peers.”

Similar results were seen in daughters. The largest difference was seen in breast development, which started up to six months earlier in girls whose mothers had experienced earlier periods than their peers, or up to four months later in girls whose mothers had started puberty later than their peers.

“The novelty of our study was to include other markers of pubertal development in daughters, such as different stages of breast development and pubic hair development and to study sons; the relationship in sons has only been sparsely investigated.”

Sørensen S, Brix N, Ernst A et al. et al. Maternal age at menarche and pubertal development in sons and daughters: a Nationwide Cohort Stud. Human Reproduction 12 October 2018; doi:10.1093/humrep/dey287

https://academic.oup.com/humrep/article-lookup/doi/10.1093/humrep/dey287

Tags: Europe | Genetics | Infancy to Adolescence | Women's Health & Gynaecology

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