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Studies: Armpit Secretions Affect Menstrual Cycles

November 20, 1986

PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ Experiments show that a woman’s menstrual cycle can be affected by secretions from another person’s armpit, possibly providing a tool to help solve some fertility problems, according to researchers.

The scientists said the studies were the first to try to manipulate human menstrual cycles with male- or female-derived secretions.

George Preti, who was among researchers on the project at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in conjuction with the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, said the research did not determine which underarm chemicals caused reactions in menstrual cycles.

He said research on that question was continuing.

″We think an initial application might be to regularize abnormal cycle lengths,″ said Preti, who added a woman’s odds of conceiving increase if she has normal cycle lengths. ″It is important if you’re worried about conceiving and wanting to increase your probability of conceiving.″

Researchers studied two groups: women with what they considered normal menstrual cycles (29.5 days, with a three-day variation either way) and women with cycles of fewer than 26 days or more than 32.

A man’s armpit secretions can decrease the number of irregular menstrual cycles, the researchers determined after studying 15 women with irregular cycles for three months in 1983.

The study sought to find potential mechanisms controlling the association between heterosexual activity and menstrual cycle length. The researchers’ report said women getting the male underarm secretion - applied to the upper lip three times a week for 12 1/2 -14 1/2 weeks - showed reduced incidence in variability of cycle lengths and fewer abnormal-length cycles than women who received a placebo.

In a separate study of the 19 women with normal menstrual cycles, researchers determined that armpit secretions from another woman can move the first woman’s menstrual cycle to coincide with that of the donor.

Preti said in a recent interview that he thought it was possible that the female secretions also could be used to normalize cycle lengths of a woman with abnormal cycles.

The three-month period of the experiments, he said, was sufficient to get an idea of whether the secretions affected menstrual cycles.

″I think it would be more definitive if we could repeat the study with larger numbers of women,″ Preti said, adding he was looking into raising money for such research.

Preti said past research by others, including Winnifred B. Cutler, who worked with him and others on both studies, showed women who have weekly sexual activity with men have a greater probability of regular length cycles.

″Her data also showed that women who were sporadically active, and women who had no activity at all, had a greater probability of having very short cycles or very long cycles,″ he said.

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