Blood test could predict menopause age
Study raises the prospect of a ‘simple’ test to determine the age at which a woman will go through the menopause
28th June 2010 - Women could one day ask their doctor for a blood test to find out when they will hit the menopause. A 12 year study by doctors in Iran could prove invaluable for women deciding when they should start a family, as well as identifying those women who will have an early menopause.
Dr Fahimeh Ramezani Tehrani and colleagues from Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences in Tehran, says the findings have important implications for women and doctors if the results are backed up by larger studies.
Measuring a hormone
The researchers took blood samples at three yearly intervals from 266 women aged between 20 and 49 and measured how much of a hormone called anti-Mullerian Hormone (AMH) was present. AMH controls the development of follicles in the ovaries, from which eggs develop.
Using the data, the doctors worked out a mathematic formula for estimating the age of menopause from levels of AMH in the blood of the participants.
“We were able to show that there was a good level of agreement between ages at menopause estimated by our model and the actual age at menopause for a subgroup of 63 women who reached menopause during the study,” says Tehrani in a statement. “The average difference between the predicted age at menopause using our model and the women’s actual age was only a third of a year and the maximum margin of error for our model was only three to four years,” she adds.
Tehrani says they identified a way of predicting at different ages in a woman’s life whether she would experience an early menopause - before the age of 45. For instance, AMH levels of 4.1 ng/ml or less predicted early menopause in 20 year olds; AMH levels of 3.3 ng/ml predicted it in 25-year-olds, and AMH levels of 2.4 ng/ml predicted it in 30-year-olds.
More research needed
Tehrani concludes: “Our findings indicate that AMH is capable of specifying a woman's reproductive status more realistically than chronological age per se. Considering that this is a small study that has looked at women over a period of time, larger studies starting with women in their twenties and following them for several years are needed to validate the accuracy of serum AMH concentration for the prediction of menopause in young women.”
The findings are being presented at the 26th annual meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology in Rome.
Tony Rutherford, Chairman of the British Fertility Society says in a statement: “In the past we have struggled to obtain an accurate predictor of when a woman will go through menopause and anti-Mullerian hormone has long been seen as a good candidate for resolving this issue.
“This interesting study describes a new model that directly links anti-Mullerian hormone levels to age at menopause, with the validation of having studied the participants over a number of years.”
Rutherford though cautions that the latest findings are preliminary and that long-term, randomised clinical trials would be needed to confirm their accuracy.
“Fertility declines dramatically in the years leading up to menopause and it is important that women do not see tests of this nature as a reason to delay starting a family,” he says.