Open Access Open Badges Research article

Decline in age at menarche among Spanish women born from 1925 to 1962

Anna Cabanes12*, Nieves Ascunce3, Enrique Vidal12, María Ederra3, Ana Barcos3, Nieves Erdozain3, Virginia Lope12 and Marina Pollán12

Author Affiliations

1 Área de Epidemiología Ambiental y Cáncer, Centro Nacional de Epidemiología, Instituto de Salud Carlos III, Monforte de Lemos 5, 28029 Madrid, Spain

2 Consortium for Biomedical Research in Epidemiology & Public Health (CIBER en Epidemiología y Salud Pública - CIBERESP). Instituto de Salud Carlos III, Madrid, Spain

3 Instituto de Salud Pública, Sección de Detección Precoz, Bergamín 2, 31003 Pamplona, Spain

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BMC Public Health 2009, 9:449  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-9-449

Published: 4 December 2009



While the timing of reproductive events varies across populations, a downward trend in age at menarche has nevertheless been reported in most of the developed world over the past century. Given the impact of change in age at menarche on health conditions, this study sought to examine secular trends in age at menarche among women living in Navarre (Northern Spain) who participated in a population-based breast cancer screening programme.


The study was based on 110545 women born from 1925 to 1962. Trends were tested using a linear regression model, in which year of birth was entered continuously as the predictor and age at menarche (years) as the response variable, using size of town and region of birth as covariates.


Among women born in Navarre between 1925 and 1962, age at menarche declined steadily from an average of 13.72 years in the 1925-1929 birth-cohorts to 12.83 years in the 1958-1962 birth-cohorts. Controlling for size of town or city of birth, age at menarche declined by an average of 0.132 years every 5 years over the period 1925-1962. This decline was greater in women born in rural versus urban settings. Trends were also different among regions of birth.


We report a population-based study showing a downward trend in age of onset of menarche among Spanish women born in the period 1925-1962, something that is more pronounced among women born in rural settings and varies geographically.