Genetic link to hot flushes identified

The menopause is natural but the end of menstruation is met with some challenging symptoms, not least hot flushes (also know as hot flashes). Changes in body hormones are likely to be responsible but a new large and multi-ethnic study may provide some explanation as to why some women suffer more than others; it may be partly caused by your genes.

Your genes are the blueprint for how your body works. Genetic variation within a species often results in minor differences in appearance and health. If these effects are beneficial or tolerable until reproduction, these genes are passed on down families. In this case, there seems to be evidence for a genetic susceptibility to menopausal symptoms.

Hot flashes or flushes are the end result of a paucity of oestrogen. Although the mechanism by which this happens is unclear, it is likely to be related to blood vessels. Sweating, flushing and shivering are all uncomfortable and familiar symptoms.

In this study, researchers examined data from 17,695 women from all backgrounds, finding a greater association of hot flushes with up to 14 genetic variants. These genes were associated with the central brain receptor tachykinin receptor 3, thought to influence oestrogen release.

"If we can better identify what genetic variants are associated with hot flashes, this could lead to novel treatments to relieve them," said researcher Carolyn Crandall.

It is worth noting that 'association' and 'causation' within science are different things. An 'association' can begin to direct research into causation. Although a causative link could not be proved within the study, the association may help indicate those at risk and design new treatments by suggesting a biological link. The researchers have highlighted the potential for new research evaluating these associations, which may help to relieve menopausal symptoms in the future.

This news will come as a welcome relief to the 70% of women suffering hot flushes - soon your symptoms may be much more treatable.

Any opinions above are the author's alone. Guidance is based on the best available evidence at the time of writing. All data is based on externally validated studies unless expressed otherwise. Novel data is representative of sample surveyed. Online recommendation is no substitute for seeing your own doctor and should not be taken as medical advice.

Sources and further reading

1) http://bit.ly/2ek2Sqx 

2) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/gene/6870

3) https://www.innocentive.com/ar/challenge/9933526

4) http://bismarcktribune.com/lifestyles/health-med-fit/researchers-identify-genes-linked-to-hot-flashes/article_6ab010d3-f784-5c2f-878c-d58614e783e9.html

5) http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/313572.php

6) http://newsroom.ucla.edu/releases/are-hot-flashes-genetic

7) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11400216

8) http://patient.info/health/menopause-and-hormone-replacement-therapy-hrt