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Sex abuse linked to early menstrual period

May 20, 2009 at 1:11 AM

BOSTON, May 20 (UPI) -- African-American women, younger at their first menstrual periods, were more likely to report a history of childhood sexual abuse, U.S. researchers found.

Researchers at Boston University's Slone Epidemiology Center said that the finding suggests that a history of sexual abuse may increase the risk of early menstrual periods -- before age 12.

The study, published online in the American Journal of Public Health, examined the prevalence of sexual and physical abuse in childhood among more than 35,000 African-American women aged 21-69 years participating in the Black Women's Health Study.

The researchers found that a high proportion of participants reported a history of childhood abuse: 43 percent reported physical abuse and 18 percent reported sexual abuse.

Women who reported a higher frequency of childhood sexual abuse had a higher likelihood of early periods: a 26 percent increased risk of early periods for up to three incidents of sexual abuse and a 34 percent increased risk of early periods for four or more incidents, compared with women reporting no childhood abuse, the study said.

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