I know exactly how old I was when I got my first period. I was in 6th grade, so I was 11. I don’t remember much about the first glimpse of scarlet in my underwear. I’m sure I was upset, frightened, and alarmed.
You can imagine how unhappy I was when I read this article in Bustle.
The age you are when you first start menstruating, also known as menarche, has a sizable influence on many factors in your life. But what’s most concerning is that women who got their period before age 12 are at a higher risk for both heart disease and breast cancer.
Thanks, Aunt Flo!
Researchers from the University of Oxford spent over a decade studying how the menstrual cycle affect a woman’s overall health and published their findings in the journal Circulation. The researchers reanalyzed original data from 117 studies worldwide, including almost 120,000 women with breast cancer, and over 300,000 women without the disease.
The researchers discovered that starting periods earlier had a greater impact on breast cancer risk than did finishing periods later, suggesting that the effects of these factors may not simply reflect the number of reproductive cycles in a woman’s lifetime.
“The size of our study, the wide range of ages considered, and the vascular diseases being examined made it unique and informative,” the study’s lead author Dr. Dexter Canoy said in a press release.
“Childhood obesity, widespread in many industrialized countries, is linked particularly to early age at which the first menstrual cycle occurs. The research team consistently found throughout the study that those who were healthy and lean had a first menstruation age closer to 13 than those who were overweight or obese.”
Researchers also found that the later a woman finishes having periods (one year without periods and you’re in menopause) the more at risk she is for developing breast cancer. The research showed that the more exposure to hormones, the more likely your body will develop breast cancer.
When you’re a young girl getting your period for the first time, the idea that your own body chemistry is now putting you at risk for heart disease and breast cancer is the last thing that enters your mind.