Oct 22, 2012 by EDITOR
Boys Are Also Experiencing The Onset of Puberty Two Years Earlier
About 15 percent of American girls now reach puberty by age seven. Among black girls, the rate is at least 25 percent at that age. Boys have been left out of most statistical studies on early onset of puberty until now. A study conducted by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has documented that boys in the U.S. are experiencing the onset of puberty up to two years earlier than reported in previous research.
The study, "Secondary Sexual Characteristics in Boys: Data from the Pediatric Research in Office Settings Network," will be published in the November 2012 Pediatrics and published online to coincide with the AAP National Conference & Exhibition in New Orleans. The trend toward earlier onset of puberty in girls is now generally accepted and supported by extensive research. Little research was available on the age of onset of puberty in boys in contemporary times.
The study was designed and conducted through the AAP Pediatric Research in Office Settings (PROS) practice-based research network, a system of hundreds of pediatricians nationwide who contribute data to AAP-led scientific studies on children's health. A 1997 PROS study was the first large study to document earlier pubertal onset in US girls. For the study of pubertal characteristics in boys, 212 practitioners in 144 pediatric offices in 41 states recorded information on more than 4,100 boys.
This new research found that the observed mean ages of stage 2 genital and pubic hair growth, and early testicular enlargement -- standard indications of pubertal onset -- were six months to two years earlier than documented by data several decades earlier. Pediatricians recorded the earliest stage of puberty as occurring in non-Hispanic white boys at age 10.14 years; in non-Hispanic African-American boy at age 9.14 years, and in Hispanic boys at age 10.4.
Overall, African-American boys were more likely to start puberty earlier than white or Hispanic boys.
Although scientists profess some confusion about what's to blame for the sexual development, they suspect some of the obvious contenders. First, there's the problem of pollution by toxins that affect hormonal systems. The water supply, for instance, has become polluted with some of the 30,000-100,000 chemicals used commercially in the US, as well as by pharmaceutical drugs and prescription hormones like HRT, birth control pills, and growth hormones for farm animals.
We've written repeatedly about the fact that various toxins in common use have estrogenic effects, particularly endocrine disrupters like BPA, which shows up in plastic water bottles, baby bottles, and the lining of many of the canned foods on our shelves. It's the petrochemical-based xenoestrogens in the environment that cause the greatest harm. Not only are these xenoestrogens omnipresent, they are considerably more potent than estrogen made by the ovaries -- some even potent in amounts as small as a billionth of a gram. The body can't produce enough natural progesterone to oppose the xenoestrogens, which leads to a host of severe health problems, including early puberty as well as increased risk of cancers, tumors, weight gain, depression, autoimmune deficiency, and so on.
"Contemporary data on the ages of pubertal characteristics in U.S. boys from onset to maturity, lacking until now, are needed by pediatricians, public health scientists, and parents," said study author Marcia E. Herman-Giddens, DrPH. "Following changes in growth and development is an important part of assessing the health of the nation's children. I am grateful to the pediatricians and the boys who participated in this exciting study."
"All parents need to know whether their sons are maturing within the contemporary age range, but, until now, this has not been known for U.S. boys," said PROS Director Richard C. Wasserman, MD, MPH, FAAP. "The PROS study provides 21st century standards."
"The landmark PROS study of the 1990s provided contemporary data for girls' puberty," Dr. Wasserman said. "A study on boys puberty was a logical follow-up. Our pediatric endocrinologist colleagues now use the PROS puberty assessment training materials in their own studies and fellowship training."
Hopefully for boys, the solution will not involve a pharmaceutical. Currently for girls, physicians prescribe hormone treatments that slow down their development. Synthetic hormones to counter synthetic hormones -- brilliant! Of course, such treatments do have certain risks and side effects, not the least of which is that the residue could end up in the drinking water supply and have who knows what effects on future generations.