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The First Period as a Harbinger

A girl's first period is a watershed moment in her life, a dividing line between childhood and womanhood. The age at which that first period comes, says a new study as reported in The Week, provides a glimpse into her future health and body type. After studying 17,500 women across eight different cultures, researchers at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology identified the genes that determine when a girl will experience the onset of menstruation. These genes, they found, also are connected to body shape and development.

Girls who get their periods earlier, at the age of 9 or 10, are more likely to develop a shorter and pudgier physique, and to have a high body mass index in adulthood. Girls who do not begin menstruating until their teens are more likely to be tall and thin, and to have lower risks for cancers of the breast and endometrium. The earlier a woman menstruates, the longer her body is bathed in higher levels of the female sex hormone estrogen, which has been linked to these diseases.

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