A history of childhood abuse puts girls at a risk of early menarche, or onset of their menstrual periods before age 12 years; believes a recent study.
Lead researcher Lauren A. Wise, ScD at Boston University's Slone Epidemiology Centre said that a history of sexual abuse may increase the risk of early menarche.
She said a link between sexual abuse and early menarche, if real, could have important public health implications because early menarche is associated with earlier age at initiation of sexual activity and first pregnancy, and is a risk factor for several adult conditions, including gynecologic disorders, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.
For the study, the researchers 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 study found that a high proportion of participants reported a history of childhood abuse
Nearly 43 percent reported physical abuse and 18 percent reported sexual abuse.
The researchers revealed that women who reported a higher frequency of childhood sexual abuse had a higher likelihood of early menarche: a 26 percent increased risk of early menarche for 1-3 incidents of sexual abuse and a 34 percent increased risk of early menarche for four or more incidents.
"It is biologically plausible that childhood sexual abuse could influence age of menarche," said Wise.
The study appears on-line in the American Journal of Public Health.