WEDNESDAY, Oct. 19, 2016 (HealthDay News) — Some women may be genetically predisposed to suffer hot flashes before or during menopause, a new study suggests.

A team of scientists from the University of California, Los Angeles says it identified gene variants that affect a brain receptor that regulates the release of estrogen. These variants increase the likelihood that women will experience hot flashes, the researchers said.

"No previous studies have focused on how variants in women's genes may be linked with hot flashes, and these results were highly statistically significant," said principal investigator Dr. Carolyn Crandall, a professor of medicine in the division of general internal medicine and health services research at UCLA.

"These associations were similar across European-American, African-American and Hispanic-American women, and they persisted even after we accounted for other factors that might influence hot flashes," she added. But the study did not prove the gene variants caused hot flashes.

The study was published Oct. 19 in the journal Menopause.

"If we can better identify what genetic variants are associated with hot flashes, this could lead to novel treatments to relieve them," Crandall said in a journal news release.

For the study, the researchers analyzed the entire human genome to identify links between genetic variations and hot flashes and night sweats. They examined genetic information collected from 17,695 postmenopausal women between the ages of 50 and 79. They also considered whether these women reported hot flashes or night sweats.

After investigating more than 11 million gene variants, the study authors found that 14 of the variants were associated with hot flashes. Each of these variants are located in the part of chromosome 4 that encodes a specific brain receptor, known as tachykinin receptor 3. This receptor interacts with nerve fibers that regulate the release of estrogen.

The researchers said their finding could lead to new treatments that might help ease symptoms of menopause, but more research is needed to understand how other rare gene variants could affect hot flashes.

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Aging provides more information on hot flashes.