A new study finds that girls are more likely to start developing breasts by age 7 or 8 today as opposed to a later age in the past, according to the journal Pediatrics.
Being overweight seemed to influence the early breast development. But researchers are also concerned about environmental causes for the earlier development.
“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…”
Dr. Catherine Gordon, a pediatric endocrinologist and specialist in adolescent medicine at Children’s Hospital Boston, said that breast development nor date of first menstruation has changed for white girls of normal weight.
The article went on to say:
“Dozens of studies have been published in the years since. Arguments continue, but many doctors accept the idea that heavier girls often develop earlier. And subsequent studies have also found that black and Hispanic girls mature earlier than whites, even when weight is taken into account. No one knows why. Though breasts may be sprouting earlier, the average age of first menstruation, between 12 and 13, has not really changed.
The AJC’s Gracie Bond Staples examined the trend in Georgia. Here is her report.
So why should we care if our daughters develop their breasts sooner?
Well according to scientists in the New York Times story there are multiple concerns.
The first concern is that the girls would be exposed to estrogen longer during their lives, which puts them at a higher risk for cancer.
The second concern is whether 7 or 8 year olds are ready to deal with the changes to the body and their minds that hormones bring — such as sexual feelings or even PMS-type stuff.
The third concern is emotionally are these 7 and 8 year old ready to deal with the attention that breasts bring. (How sad we have to worry about 7 or 8 year olds being harassed if they have breast buds!)
The fourth concern is if there is something environmentally causing it, scientists need to figure out what it is to stop it.
In a related story, the official Chinese Daily newspaper is reporting that Chinese babies are developing breasts and are found to have estrogen levels as high as in adult women. However, they think they know from where that estrogen is coming.
“According to the official Chinese Daily newspaper, medical tests performed on the babies found levels of estrogens circulating in their bloodstreams that are as high as those found in most adult women. These babies are between four and 15 months old. And the evidence is overwhelming that the milk formula they have been fed is responsible.”
“Synutra, the company that makes the baby formula consumed by these babies, says it’s not their fault. They insist that “no man-made hormones or any illegal substances were added during the production of the milk powder.”
“Then what is the source of the hormones? A Chinese dairy association says the hormones could have entered the food chain when farmers reared the cows.”
So, here are the questions:
1. What do you think of the first story about girls, overweight ones especially, beginning breast development at ages 7 or 8?
2. What have you seen with your own daughters or their friends?
3. When did you start to develop? Do you think your daughter’s development has mirrored your own? (I think at least with menstrual cycles it’s supposed to be about the same.
4. What do you make of the fact that African-American and Hispanic girls tend to develop earlier than white girls?
5. How concerned about you about the side effects of the early breast development?
6. What do you make of the Chinese babies developing breasts??? (Talk about being exposed to estrogen for a long time!)