VANDERBILT (US) — Scientists have found a potential way to determine the start of menopause—findings that could lead to better fertility assessment and insight into disease risk.
The researchers examined the relationship between antral follicle count (AFC)—the number of early and potentially egg-producing follicles in the ovaries (as seen on ultrasound)—and the onset of natural menopause, which is the permanent end to ovarian egg production.
Melissa Wellons, assistant professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University, and colleagues looked at this in women aged 34 to 49 who participated in an ongoing study focused on coronary artery disease development. As part of the study, AFC was measured in 2002-2003, with follow up in 2009-2010.
The researchers report in the journal Menopause that women with an AFC of four or less were nearly twice as likely (compared to women with AFC greater than four) to report menopause at the seven-year follow-up, even after controlling for known correlates of ovarian aging.
The findings suggest that AFC may be a useful tool for predicting the timing of natural menopause, and for assessing the relationship between ovarian decline and later health outcomes.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) supported the research through grants to Wellons and by NIH contracts and grants supporting the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults Study and the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults Women’s Study.
Source: Vanderbilt University