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Letters: Facts about menopause

June 18, 2013

Re "Menopause: Is men's taste to blame?," June 15

The report provides scant evidence that a genetic mutation caused menopause in aging women, that male preference for young women is responsible for the accumulation of that gene over time, or that men are reproductively fertile until death despite their young female partners. In fact, menopausal women tend to outlive men.

As such, menopause may have arisen because of a set of complex genes contributing to longevity that enabled survival beyond a woman's ability to reproduce. In long-lived species, an older woman unencumbered by the reproductive process can ensure that her grandchildren reach reproductive age and that her longevity genes are passed to her great-grandchildren — and thus she achieves "reproductive success."

Menopause occurs as women run out of oocytes (cells in the ovary that divide and mature into ova during puberty), whose numbers are determined before birth through an ancient mammalian biological processes — not a new sterility mutation.

Longevity and grandmothers may trump the male mate-preference model.

Erna Toback

Studio City

The writer is a biological anthropologist.

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