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article imageStudy shows girls in the US now reach puberty at a younger age

By R. C. Camphausen     Aug 9, 2010 in Health
A new study shows that American girls are showing signs of puberty at an earlier age than ever, especially heavier girls with a high body-mass index. Today, twice as many girls as a decade ago begin breast development at age 7. Scientists are concerned.
A study released on Sunday in the journal Pediatrics shows that the average age at which puberty begins is still falling for girls in the United States. Although the trend towards puberty at a younger age is a worldwide phenomenon, it seems that lifestyle and environment in the US have combined to create a very early onset of puberty, starting now at age 7.
An article in the Daily Record says:A third of children are now overweight, and the early puberty trend could be related to the obesity epidemic, says Marcia Herman-Giddens of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. A growing number of researchers also are concerned about hormone-disrupting chemicals in the environment. Animal studies suggest that many environmental toxins can affect the age of puberty, although scientists aren't yet sure exactly how they affect people.
The numbers that have come out in the research paper are as follows, quoted here from the New York Times:
At 7 years, 10.4 percent of white, 23.4 percent of black and 14.9 percent of Hispanic girls had enough breast development to be considered at the onset of puberty.
At age 8, the figures were 18.3 percent in whites, 42.9 percent in blacks and 30.9 percent in Hispanics. The percentages for blacks and whites were even higher than those found by a 1997 study that was one of the first to suggest that puberty was occurring earlier in girls.
Unfortunately, the research only concerned breast development, also known as thelarche, which is phase one of developing puberty. Therefore, it is not clear whether or not pubarche (growth of pubic hair) and menarche (first menstrual bleeding) occur at a younger age now, or if puberty -- from thelarche to menarche -- simply covers a longer span of time.
Apart from obesity, a growing number of researchers think that hormone-disrupting chemicals in the environment could be a contributing factor, with pesticides, and bisphenol A (BPA) being seen as possible catalysts. BPA is an estrogen-like ingredient used in plastic bottles, the linings of metal food and beverage cans, not to mention on many receipts customers get from stores.
Considering that so much estrogen seems to be in our environment, this generation of girls and young women are at a greater risk concerning breast cancer once they are adults.
More about Puberty, Girls, Menarche, Thelarche, Young age
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