In Utero Hormone Levels May Affect Migraine Risk in Adulthood

Sex differences in migraine prevalence may not be entirely accounted for by genetic factors

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 5, 2022 (HealthDay News) -- Hormone levels in utero may be linked to the risk for developing migraine in adulthood, and risk may differ by sex, according to a study published online Dec. 16 in Frontiers in Pain Research.

Morgan C. Fitzgerald, from the University of California in San Diego, and colleagues used data from 51,872 participants identified in the Swedish Twin Registry to study the degree to which genetic and environmental factors may contribute to sex differences in migraine.

The researchers found that women had a significantly higher rate of migraine without aura versus men (17.6 versus 5.5 percent). The results from a genetic (additive and nonadditive), environmental, sex-limitation model indicated that migraine was equally heritable in men and women, with a broad sense heritability of 0.45. The results from a genetic (reduced additive), environmental, sex-limitation model provided subtle evidence for differences across men and women for the genes underlying migraine. There was a significant increase seen in migraine risk for women with a male co-twin versus women with a female co-twin (odds ratio, 1.51) in a logistic regression analysis.

"We are the first to show that females with a male co-twin have a higher risk of migraine compared to females with a female co-twin, suggesting that prenatal factors, possibly relating to in utero hormone levels, may contribute to migraine risk," Fitzgerald said in a statement. "We are also the first to present evidence that genetic factors related to migraine risk may be different between females and males."

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