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Growing up too soon: early puberty in girls

growinguptoogirls.jpgEight-year old girls should still be playing with dolls and reading fairy tales – and not worrying about cup sizes and monthly periods. Unfortunately, it seems that more and more girls are entering puberty at an early age.

In 1997, a study on 17,000 girls in North Carolina showed that almost half of African Americans and 15% of whites had begun breast development by age 8. That was more than 10 years ago and this trend of early onset puberty is becoming the norm rather than the exception.

An LA Times article reviews what experts have to say.

It?s normal
Some specialists say the trend of early puberty is not abnormal. Good nutrition, good health care, and good standard of living ? these are all contributing factors that give the go signal to the body to start the process towards reproductive maturity. In other words, girls nowadays are growing up faster than the generations before them because of better quality of life.

It?s not normal
Others think this is abnormal and attribute this alarming trend to exposure to chemicals in food and the environment. Hormones and growth factors in food products are highly suspect.

The consequences
Whatever the reason behind these changes, there are consequences to think of:

  • Early puberty means early exposure to estrogen. Estrogen level is a risk factor for breast and cervical cancers.
  • There is non-synchrony between the physical and psychological development of these girls. Will we end up with little girls trapped in adult bodies?
  • What about consequences on sexuality? Should sex education already start in the second grade? Shall we soon be worrying about pre-teenage pregnancy?


LA Times, 21 January 2008

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