Early menarche – A shocking risk factor of cancer
Cancer is a big cluster of disease that affects a huge populace. Recent times have witnessed a sudden sprout in the number of cancer cases. Blame it on the degrading environment, lifestyle, food habits or something else, cancer has emerged as the major plight of modern man. Among the long list of identified causes of cancer, early menarche is a well-established factor.
Stages of Puberty
Puberty is the phase when a girl or a boy begins to attain maturity. In girls, puberty is further classified into the following stages –
- Thelarche – Breast growth begins
- Pubarche – The start of pubic hair growth
- Peak growth – An acceleration of linear growth
- Menarche – First menses
Early thelarche, early menarche, early regular periods, a longer time between thelarche and menarche, or early periods every month contributes to an increased risk of breast cancer.
Menarche is a big milestone in women’s life. It earmarks her reproductive capacity. In this phase, the ovarian and endocrine activity associated with reproduction begins in the body. Earlier the average age of menarche used to be 12-17. But, over the past 15 years, puberty has been striking at an age much earlier than this.
Today, girls as young as 6 or 7 years are getting their first period. And an increasing number of young girls, at the age between 8 -10 years are reporting of menarche.
Signs of Early Menarche
Though menstruation marks the age of maturity in young girls, menstruation is not the only sign of early puberty. The very first signs spotted in this transition of puberty include-
- Tender breast developments
- Pubic hair growth
- Armpit odour
- Armpit hair growth
- Moodiness or crankiness
Complications of early menarche
Puberty is a natural transition. Menarche is a natural phenomenon. Then what could be the possible complications?
Well, early onset of puberty raises the risk of several health hazards. It pushes the young girl into emotional trauma and stress. They try hard to understand and cope up with their changing body.
Early menarche and breast cancer
Breast cancer is one of the most common invasive cancers. It is the second most common cause of death from cancer. Among many factors, the timing of puberty plays a potential risk factor for breast cancer.
Stuhttps://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4612558/dies revealed that each year of early menarche increases the risk of breast cancer by 5 per cent. Also, the age of menarche delayed by a year can decrease the risk of premenopausal breast cancer by 9 per cent and the risk of postmenopausal breast cancer by 4 per cent.
Early Thelarche and Breast Cancer
Early maturity also results in early thelarche which means that breasts are formed sooner than standard age. The tender tissues of early breasts interact with hormones inside and outside the body. Also, they interact with chemicals in products that are hormone disruptors. Thus, early thelarche may increase the risk of developing breast cancer.
Early thelarche results in breasts comprising of predominantly undifferentiated, proliferating cells. These cells don’t differentiate fully until the first full-term pregnancy and lactation. Therefore, earlier thelarche might suggest a higher risk of harmful mutations developing.
Early Menarche and reproductive cancer
Ovarian cancer is the third most common malignancy. It is the second most common cause of cancer death worldwide among gynecologic cancers. Emerging evidence points out. that menarche age is inversely related to the risk of ovarian cancer
The scientific reasonings
Science reveals that the longer a woman menstruates, the higher is her chances for developing cancer. This is because of the higher exposure to the hormones estrogen and progesterone. Both these hormones are associated with a higher risk of breast cancer.
Another study confirmed early periods and late childbearing increases the risk of breast cancer. Another theory connects the increased risk of breast cancer to hormones, such as estrogen. Estrogen increases cell proliferation. This increases the chance of harmful mutations occurring during DNA replication.
Early menarche also means early thelarche. The young tender breast tissues are more vulnerable to environmental pollutants and chemicals. This establishes another link of early menarche to breast cancer.
Some studies also report a higher risk of breast cancer among women with early regular menses. The levels of ovarian hormones are highest during the luteal phase. Women with irregular cycles spend less time in this phase than women with regular cycles.
Puberty triggers the process of estrogen manufacturing in the body. And estrogen plus stress is a known cancer-causing agent. Girls who hit early puberty are exposed to many levels of stress. Early menarche results in more estrogen production over the years. This increase the risk of reproductive cancers.
Causes of early menarche
Scientists are yet to discover all the possible causes of early menarche. But they revealed that the largest known cause of early menarche is obesity. But it is not the only trigger!
Other factors that might result in early menarche are:
- Toxic stress
- Physical assault
- Growing up without a biological father
- Environment factors, plastics
- Poor diet
- Exposure to excessive screen time
- Lack of sleep
Managing early menarche
Most known causes of early menarche are controllable. Hence, a few conscious steps might help avoid the risk.
- Maintaining a healthy weight in the child.
- Engaging the child in physical activities.
- Providing a balanced healthy diet and cutting down junk and unhealthy stuff.
- Ensuring proper sleep time.
- Providing a safe and secure environment at home.
- Limiting the time of screen exposure.
- Emotional support and the friendly parent-child relationship.
In case the child attains early menarche, here are a few ways to extend support –
- Being present emotionally throughout this tough phase.
- Honesty and openness in the child-parent relationship.
- Teaching the concepts of Body positivity.
- Teaching the beauty of uniqueness