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Early Puberty Doubles in a Decade

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Early Puberty Doubles in a Decade

In the last decade, the number of girls in the US reaching puberty at the age of 7 has doubled. The cause has not been confirmed, but obesity and exposure to chemicals that mimic the female hormone estrogen are the prime suspects, according to an article in New Scientist magazine.

The figures come from a study of 1200 girls in three US cities. Of the girls studied, 10.4 percent of white 7-year-olds had breast development consistent with the onset of puberty, compared to 5 percent in a 1997 study, earlier studies had identified early puberty mainly in black girls. The new study is being published on Monday in the journal Pediatrics.

Marcia Herman-Giddens of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who led the 1997 study, expressed shock at the increases. “To find the girls are starting breast development earlier and earlier is extremely concerning,” she says. “To have that much change in such a short time, it has to be the environment.”

Frank Biro of the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center in Ohio, head of the new study, suggests that “Part of it is the increase in overweight and obese girls.” Hormones released by the extra fat cells could play a role. His team is also checking blood and urine samples for chemicals that mimic oestrogen, from plastics in the environment, for example, to soy in the diet.

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Read more: Cancer, Children, Diet & Nutrition, Eating for Health, General Health, Health, Health & Safety, News & Issues, Women's Health,

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Melissa Breyer

Melissa Breyer is a writer and editor with a background in sustainable living, specializing in food, science and design. She is the co-author of True Food (National Geographic) and has edited and written for regional and international books and periodicals, including The New York Times Magazine. Melissa lives in Brooklyn, NY.

177 comments

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3:14AM PDT on Mar 28, 2013

Get rid of all the BPA (Bisphenol A)

3:11AM PDT on Mar 28, 2013

Thanks

1:19PM PDT on Mar 27, 2013

Thanks for the great article, interesting and informative, something to think about.

5:46AM PDT on Aug 3, 2012

With all the food additives out there and GMO foods I am NOT surprised!

9:32AM PST on Jan 15, 2012

this is why a menstuating doll is needed., who wants to help me make such a toy?

11:18AM PST on Dec 4, 2011

thanks for the article!!!

4:32AM PST on Nov 13, 2011

Thanks for the article.

2:57PM PDT on Jun 13, 2011

Very interesting and a bit unsettling. Thanks Melissa.

5:31PM PDT on Sep 16, 2010

This is disturbing

7:51PM PDT on Sep 15, 2010

probably because of obesity

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