Abstract

In 1989,125 African-American and 123 European-American girls aged 12–14 years were enrolled in a 2-year study in which they maintained a menstrual calendar, recording the date and amount of menstrual bleeding. Weight, exercise, and stress during the previous week were recorded at the start of each menstrual cycle. Although only minor ethnic differences were observed in expected cycle length (29.3 vs. 28.8 days for European-American and African-American girls, respectively), more prominent differences were observed in the between-subjects standard deviation of cycle length (2.9 vs. 2.2 days, respectively) and in the odds of having a cycle longer than 45 days (odds ratio=1.86, 95% confidence interval 1.17–2.97) for European-American compared with African-American girls. Low weight for height and high levels of exercise increased the probability of having a cycle longer than 45 days and decreased expected cycle length of 13- to 45-day cycles. Additional investigation of potential ethnic differences in menstrual cycle characteristics is warranted.