Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Blood test may be able to predict menopause

A simple doctor's-office blood test may one day be able to predict when a woman will start menopause, possibly even in women in their 20s.

Pending validation in future studies, the test could help women make reproductive decisions, say the authors of a study that will be presented Monday at the annual meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology in Rome.

"Women may want to know if they're OK waiting to start a family till they're 41," says Dr. Jennifer Wu, M.D., an obstetrician/gynecologist at Lenox Hill Hospital, in New York City, who was not involved with the study. "If they know they're going to start menopause at 45, they may not want to wait."

But the test definitely isn't ready for prime time and may not be used primarily to guide family planning decisions, even if it is eventually brought to market, other experts say.

"I'm not sure that this would help with family planning decisions [although] it's a very interesting first, small, observational study," says Dr. Steven Goldstein, M.D., president-elect of the North American Menopause Society. "It would be helpful to do a larger trial and see if it pans out and, if so, to what degree of accuracy."

In the study, researchers from Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences, in Tehran, Iran, measured blood levels of anti-mullerian hormone in 266 women who were ages 20 to 49.

AMH is proportional to the number of viable eggs left in the ovaries, which produce the hormone, says Dr. James A. Grifo, M.D., Ph.D, program director of the NYU Langone Fertility Center, in New York City.

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