The largest genomic analysis of puberty timing in men and women conducted to date has identified 389 genetic signals associated with puberty timing, four times the number that were previously known.

Monday 24 April 2017      Latest research

The study, published today in Nature Genetics and led by researchers from the Medical Research Council (MRC) Epidemiology Unit at the University of Cambridge and other scientists in the international ReproGen consortium, also found new genetic evidence linking earlier timing of puberty to higher risk of several cancers known to be sensitive to sex-hormones in later life, including breast, ovary and endometrial cancers in women, and prostate cancer in men.

These influences remained after controlling for body weight, which is important as body weight itself influences both the timing of puberty and the risk of some cancers.

Dr Richard Berks, Research Communications Manager at Breast Cancer Now, said:

“This important study reveals that some of the genetic factors that influence puberty timing overlap with those that influence breast cancer risk.

“While this study did not directly compare age at puberty with breast cancer risk, it gives us a better understanding of the possible genetic links between the two.

“We already know that early puberty can slightly increase a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer later in life. However, lifestyle factors could have a much bigger influence on a woman’s breast cancer risk – and everyone can help reduce their risk of the disease by maintaining a healthy weight, being more physically active, and cutting down on alcohol.”

More information

Find out how the genes we inherit from our parents affect our risk of developing breast cancer in our genes and body section

Our online family history guide has been developed to help you understand what a family history of breast cancer is, and what it means for you and your family.