Delayed initiation of breast development in girls with higher prenatal dioxin exposure; a longitudinal cohort study

Chemosphere. 2008 Oct;73(6):999-1004. doi: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2008.05.053. Epub 2008 Aug 15.


Objectives: While many studies have assessed the health impacts of PCDD/Fs and PCBs on animals and humans, long-term consequences for especially adolescents, have not (yet) been well documented. This is certainly also true for the effects of PBDE exposure. As part of a longitudinal cohort study, now well into its second decade, effects of perinatal and current PCDD/F exposure, as well as current dl-PCB and PBDE exposures, on puberty, were assessed.

Study design: Prenatal, lactational and current PCDD/F, dl-PCB and PBDE concentrations were determined using GC-MS. Pubertal development and growth were assessed by means of physical examination and the Tanner scale. 33 Children (born between 1986 and 1991) consented to the current follow-up study. Outcomes were evaluated using linear regression or the non parametric Spearman's correlation coefficient.

Results: A delay in initiation of breast development was found in girls (n = 18) with higher prenatal (p = 0.023) and lactational PCDD/F exposure (p = 0.048). The males revealed a negative trend with age at first ejaculation. For other endpoints on puberty and growth (pubic hair, axillary hair, genital stage, length, BMI, testicular volume, menarche) no significant relation was found with any of the measured compounds.

Discussion and conclusion: A relation between prenatal PCDD/F exposure and later initiation of breast development was seen. A Belgian study found a delay in breast development with higher current serum concentrations of dioxin-like compounds. The initiation of puberty is a complex process and it is yet not clear how dioxin-like compounds precisely affect this process prenatally. Further follow-up into adulthood is warranted, in order to detect the possibility of developing malignancies and fertility problems.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Breast / growth & development*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Dioxins / toxicity*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects*
  • Sexual Maturation


  • Dioxins