Public health implications of altered puberty timing

Pediatrics. 2008 Feb;121 Suppl 3:S218-30. doi: 10.1542/peds.2007-1813G.

Abstract

Changes in puberty timing have implications for the treatment of individual children, for the risk of later adult disease, and for chemical testing and risk assessment for the population. Children with early puberty are at a risk for accelerated skeletal maturation and short adult height, early sexual debut, potential sexual abuse, and psychosocial difficulties. Altered puberty timing is also of concern for the development of reproductive tract cancers later in life. For example, an early age of menarche is a risk factor for breast cancer. A low age at male puberty is associated with an increased risk for testicular cancer according to several, but not all, epidemiologic studies. Girls and, possibly, boys who exhibit premature adrenarche are at a higher risk for developing features of metabolic syndrome, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease later in adulthood. Altered timing of puberty also has implications for behavioral disorders. For example, an early maturation is associated with a greater incidence of conduct and behavior disorders during adolescence. Finally, altered puberty timing is considered an adverse effect in reproductive toxicity risk assessment for chemicals. Recent US legislation has mandated improved chemical testing approaches for protecting children's health and screening for endocrine-disrupting agents, which has led to changes in the US Environmental Protection Agency's risk assessment and toxicity testing guidelines to include puberty-related assessments and to the validation of pubertal male and female rat assays for endocrine screening.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Animals
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Menarche / physiology
  • Metabolic Diseases / epidemiology
  • Metabolic Diseases / etiology
  • Puberty / physiology*
  • Public Health / trends*
  • Risk Factors