Study: U.S. Girls Entering Puberty Earlier
A journalist takes a photo of a displayed skeleton dating back to the Middle Ages and recently unearthed in the Black Sea town of Sozopol, at the National History Museum in Sofia, Thursday, June 14, 2012. Ever since archaeologists announced last week that they had found two ancient skeletons in Bulgaria with iron rods thrust through their chests, the media have been reporting how Bulgarians once did that to prevent the dead from emerging from the grave as vampires. On Saturday, one of those 700-year-old skeletons will be put on display at the National History Museum in Sofia, and its director, Bozhidar Dimitrov, says he expects there to be a big turnout. (AP Photo/Valentina Petrova) / Valentina Petrova
At age 7, about 10 percent of white girls and 23 percent of black girls had started developing breasts, compared to 5 percent of white girls and 15 percent of black girls in 1997, according to a study led by Dr. Frank Biro of Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. The results were published Monday in the medical journal Pediatrics.
Biro's team examined about 1,200 girls aged 7 and 8 in Cincinnati, New York and San Francisco.
At age 8, about 18 percent of white girls and 43 percent of black girls had entered puberty, compared to around 11 percent of white girls in 1997, but the same as black girls in that year.
Early puberty in girls is a concern because studies have shown they are more likely to develop breast and uterine cancer later - women who spend more of their lives menstruating have a higher risk of getting breast cancer.
Experts aren't sure what caused the earlier development of puberty.
But another study published Monday in Pediatrics shows that overweight girls are more likely to enter puberty earlier. The study was led by Dr. Mildred Maisonet from Emory University's Rollins School of Public Health and conducted on girls in Great Britain.
"There are a lot of factors at play, but there is growing concern about the environment -- that substances found in certain plastics, like BPAs, and in fertilizers can mimic estrogen in the body and speed up the puberty clock," reports CBS News medical correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton. "Only a theory at this point, but most agree it warrants further study."
According to an article in Health.com, Biro said doctors are also worried about the psychological health of girls who hit early puberty. These girls have been linked to poor self-esteem, eating disorders, depression, as well as cigarette and alcohol use and earlier sexual activity.
"For the 11-year old that looks like she's 15 or 16, adults are going to interact with her like she's 15 or 16, but so are her peers," Biro said in the article. "It doesn't mean that they're psychologically or socially more mature."
To keep Mother Nature on a more natural course, Dr. Ashton advises, "Focus on diet and nutrition to maintain a healthy weight for your kids -- keep them active and don't assume that early puberty or early breast development is the "new normal." If your daughter shows any signs of early puberty, it's always a good idea to have her seen by a doctor."
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