Menopause affects most women in their early 50s and most studies of the age of onset of menopause focused on genes from the estrogen-production pathway or vascular components.
The new study, published online in Nature Genetics, identified 13 novel locations associated with menopause onset, while confirming four previously established locations. Most are associated with genes related to DNA damage repair or auto-immune disease, while others are linked to hormonal regulation.
Kathryn Lunetta, a professor of biostatistics, and Joanne Murabito, an associate professor, examined more than 50,000 women of European descent who had experienced menopause from ages 40-60.
"We hope that as a better understanding of the biologic effects of these menopause-related variants are uncovered, we will gain new insights into the connections between menopause and cardiovascular disease, breast cancer, osteoporosis, and other traits related to aging and that this will provide avenues for prevention and treatment of these conditions," Lunetta said in a statement.