Do you remember how old you were when you started your period?

Have you noticed girls seem to be buying their first bra at younger and younger ages?

Menstruation, Longer Estrogen Exposure, and Breast Cancer

In the early part of the 20th century, the age at which girls began menstruation began dropping. The average age has declined from 16-17 years to 11-12 years over the past century. Half of the girls in the United States begin developing breasts before the age of 10.

When girls develop breasts and begin menstruation at younger and younger ages, the time between puberty and first full-term pregnancy is usually longer. During this time, breast tissue tends to be immature, overactive, and sensitive to hormonal influences. Immature breast cells have unstable DNA and are more susceptible to mutation and the cancer process.

Plus, increased numbers of menstrual cycles over a woman’s lifetime increase her exposure to estrogen. During each menstrual cycle, our estrogen levels change, elevating in preparation for ovulation.

Why the Rising Rates of Early Puberty in Girls is Cause for Concern 

  • Girls are entering puberty five years earlier than a century ago.
  • An additional five years of estrogen production can increase breast cancer risk.
  • Early puberty increases the time until a woman has a full-term pregnancy.
  • The longer the time between puberty and a first full-term pregnancy can increase breast cancer risk.

Why Late Menopause May Increase the Risk for Breast Cancer 

Just as early puberty increases a woman’s menstrual cycles, so does delayed menopause. Fortunately, there is no indication of growing numbers of late menopause. However, lifestyle and medical contributors that extend your age until menopause should be considered.

According to the American Society of Clinical Oncology, women experiencing late-onset menopause after 55 have an increased risk of uterine and breast cancer. For every year older a woman is at menopause, her breast cancer risk increases by approximately 3%.

Genetic factors are primarily responsible for the length of a woman’s reproductive life. Although you have no control over your heritage, healthy choices remain the key to reducing your risk for breast cancer.

Healthy Choices for Early Puberty and Late-Set Menopause

The good news is, according to the National Cancer Institute, prevention strategies work. Girls and women of all ages may reduce their exposure to excess estrogen with the following strategies.

  • Maintaining Healthy Weight
  • Exercising Regularly
  • Monitoring Thyroid Health
  • Reducing Antibiotic Medications
  • Using Safe Household Cleaners
  • Avoiding Plastics
  • Eliminating Hormone-Laden Animal Products in Diet
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