Puberty unnaturally early

By HSC Staff Writer • Published: January 26th, 2007
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Puberty is difficult enough to deal with as an adolescent, but how about as a preschooler?

Doctors say cases of early onset puberty are increasing at rates that are still unclear. Some are expressing concerns that children are at risk because of certain drugs in cosmetics and environmental contaminants called “endocrine disruptors.”

These substances, found in some foods, creams, shampoos and conditioners, may cause early symptoms of puberty when products containing them are used incorrectly.

Normally, puberty doesn’t occur until a girl is nine to sixteen years old or a boy is thirteen to fifteen.

At the annual Pediatric Academic Society meeting, doctors from the University of Massachusetts Medical School presented a case study of a preschool-age brother and sister.

The girl, who was being treated for a brain tumor, had a hundred times the testosterone of an average man. Then the doctors learned her father was using testosterone cream for cosmetic purposes. Both his children absorbed the testosterone from normal skin contact and experienced symptoms of early puberty.

Research has shown testosterone-containing products aren’t the only cause for concern.

Environmental scientists report that widespread industrial and pharmaceutical pollutants harm the normal sexual development of animals and may do the same in humans.

Children who enter puberty early should be examined by a pediatrician and possibly a pediatric endocrinologist, who will decide whether specific treatment or frequent check-ups are needed. Untreated, early puberty can sometimes cause short stature. Monitoring the emotional effects of early puberty also is critical.