Study indicates that young girls are entering puberty earlier

August 9th, 2010 - 10:54 pm ICT by BNO News  

WASHINGTON, D.C. (BNO NEWS) – A study conducted by the Breast Cancer and the Environment Research Centers indicates that young girls are entering puberty earlier as a result of hormonally active environmental agents.

The researchers followed the development of 1,151 girls from New York City, New York, greater Cincinnati, Ohio, and northern California between 2004 and 2006. All children were between the age of 6 and 8 at the time of enrollment in 2004.

The results showed that twice as many Caucasian girls showed breast maturity at age 7 as compared to 1997. During the same period, African-American girls showed the same constant maturity signs.

“Breast development was present in 30 percent of girls, and 22 percent had pubic hair,” the report released on Monday said. Pubertal development in girls is controlled by steroids and gonadotropins, and the results indicate that hormonally active environmental agents are altering the course of pubertal development in girls.

The analysis supports the growing evidence that the onset of puberty in girls is setting in earlier, and may possibly be a result of obesity or exposure or environmental chemicals.

Early puberty is considered to be a medical concern because the body produces increased amounts of estrogen during sexual development which elevates the risk of breast cancer. However, it is too early to say that these young girls will have breast cancer in their adulthood, but the study shows a possible scenario for this growing medical issue.

The results published on Monday by lead author Dr. Frank Biro, director of the division of adolescent medicine at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, are expected to contribute to the discovery of the causes of early puberty. As part of the investigation, the girls examined will be monitored for the next five years, when most of them will experience menarche, the first period.

Dr. Biro believes that the main cause may be overweight and obesity, because estrogen is sequestered in fat tissue, but he does not rule out the environmental exposures to chemicals as the culprit.

Exposure to pesticides and endocrine-disrupting chemicals like bisphenol A, which is commonly found in plastics and in many personal-care products, are the main chemicals suspected.

The differences found between Caucasian girls and African American girls may be related to the minimum age at which a girl can begin puberty. Dr. Biro believes that African American youngsters have already reached their lowest age for entering puberty, while Caucasians are still getting to their biological minimum.

Dr. Biro and his team are currently analyzing blood samples and looking to identify markers in it that would indicate early puberty. Those signs may help doctors recognize early puberty and become aware of its potential health consequences.

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