Aug 9, 2010

A new study finds that girls are more likely today than in the past to start developing breasts by age 7 or 8.

The research is just the latest in a flood of reports over the last decade that have led to concern and heated debate about whether girls are reaching puberty earlier, and why it might be happening.

Increased rates of obesity are thought to play a major role, because body fat can produce sex hormones. Some researchers also suspect that environmental chemicals that mimic the effects of estrogen may be speeding up the clock on puberty, but that idea is unproved.

The issue is of concern for both medical and psychosocial reasons. Studies suggest that earlier puberty, as measured by the age at first menstruation, can slightly increase the risk of breast cancer, probably because it results in longer lifetime exposure to the hormones estrogen and progesterone, which can feed some tumors.

Although the new study did not look at menstrual age, breast growth is also a sign of hormone exposure, and some researchers fear that early development might also mean an increased cancer risk.

Socially and emotionally, life can be difficult for a girl who has a child's mind in a woman's body and is not ready to deal with sexual advances from men and boys, or cope with her own hormone-spiked emotions and sexual impulses.

"Our analysis shows clearly that the white participants entered puberty earlier than we anticipated," said Dr. Frank M. Biro, the first author of the study and the director of adolescent medicine at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center.

Overweight girls were more likely to have more breast development, the study showed. But Dr. Biro said he did not think weight was the whole story. He said it was possible that environmental chemicals were also playing a role, and added that he and his colleagues were now studying the girls' hormone levels and lab tests measuring their exposures to various chemicals.

"It's certainly throwing up a warning flag," Dr. Biro said. "I think we need to think about the stuff we're exposing our bodies to and the bodies of our kids. This is a wake-up call, and I think we need to pay attention to it."



  1. My niece developed breasts at age the age of seven. She had to wear a bra. She was also taller than her peers.

    It use to be one heck of a contrast to see her sitting on the floor looking like a pre-teen physically while she played with her Cabbage Patch dolls.

    Her early development also made us keep her protected. Everybody in our family was always keeping an eye out to make sure that no one tried to take advantage of her.

  2. I believe this is caused from GMO (monster) foods, pesticides, fluoride in the water, antibiotics injected into the animals that are mass produced for consumption, as well as refined/process foods. All this manipulation of the food we eat affects our hormones, growing and susceptibility to premature disease...thus a shortened life cycle. This began in the late 60s, early 70s.

    The way to avoid this is to grow your own produce or buy from local farmers. Avoid as much meat as possible, or buy free range animals that have not been manipulated for growth. Learn to identify what are genetically-modified foods (GMO) sold in your stores. Best to buy from health food stores...and be sure to check them as well. Avoid eating in fast food and regular restaurants. Those places are notorious for buying cheap GMO foods and meat pumped with poison.

    Avoid soaps, cleaning products, makeup, perfumes and hygiene products that have chemicals in them. The extra money you pay now for some of these products may prolong your life and provide a better quality of your health. In the long run, you will save.