LONDON - Doctors could one day use a blood test to predict decades in advance when women will go into menopause, scientists say. In research to be presented on Monday at a European fertility conference in Rome, Iranian experts say their preliminary study could be a first step toward developing a tool to help women decide when they want to have children.
The test does not predict when women will lose their fertility -- which typically occurs about a decade before menopause -- but if doctors know when women will go into menopause, they can calculate roughly when they will run out of eggs. Scientists say the test could be especially helpful in identifying women who might go into menopause early -- in their late 40s or earlier instead of their mid-50s.
At the moment, there are few clues for doctors to tell which young women may be headed for early menopause. Blood tests and ovary scans only give women a few years' advance notice.
Iranian scientists took blood samples from 266 women aged 20 to 40 and measured the amount of anti-Mullerian Hormone, or AMH, in their bodies. Testing the amount of AMH in women tells doctors how many eggs there are left in the ovaries. Two more blood samples were taken in the following six years and physical exams were also performed.
Based on the amount of AMH women had, scientists used a mathematical model to estimate when women would go into menopause. Of the 63 women in the study who have hit menopause, the researchers' prediction of the event was accurate to within four months. The study began in 1998 and is ongoing.
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