Ethnic differences in ovulatory function in nulliparous women

Br J Cancer. 2002 Feb 1;86(3):367-71. doi: 10.1038/sj.bjc.6600098.


African-American women have a long-standing approximately 20% higher breast cancer incidence rate than USA White women under age 40 while rates among Latinas are lower than those of Whites. The reasons for this are not clear, however they may be due to ethnic differences in circulating oestradiol and progesterone levels. In a cross-sectional study, we investigated whether anovulation frequency and circulating serum oestradiol and/or progesterone levels vary among normally cycling nulliparous African-American (n=60), Latina (n=112) and non-Latina White (n=69) women. Blood and urine specimens were collected over two menstrual cycles among healthy 17- to 34-year-old women. Frequency of anovulation was greater among White women (nine out of 63, 14.3%) than African-American women (four out of 56, 7.1%) or Latina women (seven out of 102, 6.9%), although these differences were not statistically significant. African-American women had 9.9% (P=0.26) higher follicular phase oestradiol concentrations than Latina women and 17.4% (P=0.13) higher levels than White women. African-American women also had considerably higher levels of luteal phase oestradiol (vs Latinas, +9.4%, P=0.14; vs Whites, +25.3%, P=0.003) and progesterone (vs Latinas, +15.4%, P=0.07; vs Whites, +36.4%, P=0.002). Latina women were also observed to have higher follicular oestradiol, and luteal oestradiol and progesterone levels than White women (follicular oestradiol: +6.8%, P=0.48; luteal oestradiol: +14.6%, P=0.04; luteal progesterone: +18.2%, P=0.06). These results suggest that exposure to endogenous steroid hormones may be greater for young African-American and Latina women than for Whites.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Alcohol Drinking
  • Black or African American
  • Ethnicity*
  • Exercise
  • Female
  • Hispanic or Latino
  • Humans
  • Menarche
  • Ovulation / physiology*
  • Parity*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Smoking
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • White People