Rationale: hormonal and metabolic status appears to influence lung health in women, and there are findings suggesting that early menarche may be related to asthma, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and breast cancer.
Objectives: this study investigates whether age at menarche is related to adult lung function and asthma.
Methods: among participants in the European Community Respiratory Health Survey II, 3,354 women aged 27-57 years from random population samples in 21 centers responded to a questionnaire concerning women's health (1998-2002). Of these women, 2,873 had lung function measurements, 2,136 had measurements of bronchial hyperreactivity, and 2,743 had IgE measurements. Logistic, linear, and negative binomial regression analyses included adjustment for age, height, body mass index, education, smoking, family size, and center.
Measurements and main results: FEV(1) and FVC were lower and asthma was more common in women with early menarche. Women reporting menarche at age 10 years or less, as compared with women with menarche at age 13 years (reference category), had lower FEV(1) (adjusted difference, -113 ml; 95% confidence interval [CI], -196 to -33 ml) and FVC (-126 ml; 95% CI, -223 to -28 ml); also lower FEV(1) expressed as a percentage of the predicted value (-3.28%; 95% CI, -6.25 to -0.30%) and FVC expressed as a percentage of the predicted value (-3.63%; 95% CI, -6.64 to -0.62%). Women with early menarche more often had asthma symptoms (odds ratio, 1.80; 95% CI, 1.09-2.97), asthma with bronchial hyperreactivity (odds ratio, 2.79; 95% CI, 1.06-7.34), and higher asthma symptom score (mean ratio, 1.58; 95% CI, 1.12-2.21).
Conclusions: women with early menarche had lower lung function and more asthma in adulthood. This supports a role for metabolic and hormonal factors in women's respiratory health.