Age 8 may be the perfect time to protect girls against future infertility problems, a new study has revealed.
Girls of that age who had a high risk of developing a condition that leads to infertility were treated for four years with metformin, a commonly used diabetes drug, and were found to be less likely to develop the condition later.
While 8-year-olds don't show any outward signs of polycystic ovary syndrome, which is the top cause of infertility in women in the U.S., physiological precursors to PCOS are already present in their bodies, the researchers said.
"What we have done is chosen an at-risk group and treated them before they have clinical signs of the syndrome," Live Science quoted study researcher Dr. Lourdes Ibanez, an endocrinologist at the University of Barcelona, as saying.
"It's using the drug in a preventive way instead of a therapeutic way," added Ibanez.
Girls who were born with a very low birth weight and begin developing pubic hair at a very early age are at high risk of developing PCOS. So Ibanez and his colleagues recruited 38 girls who fit that profile. Half of these girls took metformin daily from age 8 to 12. The other half took metformin for only a year, beginning at age 12.
The researchers found that those who took the earlier and longer course of the drug were as much as eight times less likely to develop PCOS by age 15 as the other group.
The earliest symptoms of PCOS include weight gain, irregular menstruation, acne and excessive hair growth caused by disproportionate levels of male hormones. Eventually, PCOS can lead to subfertility and infertility.
The study has been published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.