Breast cancer and early puberty

The younger girls are when they get their first periods, the greater their risk of breast cancer later in life. In fact, first menstruation (menarche) before age 12 raises breast cancer risk by 50 percent compared to menarche at age 16.
The Breast Cancer Fund recently published their report reviewing current scientific literature on the timing of puberty and examining "the nutritional, psychosocial and environmental factors that contribute to its timing." The report's author, Sandra Steingraber, Ph.D., writes:
We know that endocrine disrupting chemicals are a possible cause of early puberty but we also know that exposure to these chemicals in utero or early in life can also lead to low birth weight and obesity, which are themselves possible causes of early puberty.
Key findings include possible risk factors of early puberty:
  • depression
  • eating disorders
  • suicide attempts
  • early alcohol abuse
  • violent victimization
  • teenage sexual activity
  • lower academic achievement
Dr. Steingraber recommends particular actions to protect the young:
  • Combat childhood obesity by promoting breastfeeding early in life and supporting school-based healthy school lunch and obesity prevention programs for older children
  • Support efforts to improve access to healthy foods in urban, low-income areas
  • Eliminate fetal exposures to toxic chemicals in our everyday lives
  • Support the phase-out of endocrine disrupting chemicals
  • Support organic agriculture at home and in schools

The Falling Age of Puberty in U.S. Girls: What We Know, What We Need to Know
(August 2007, 73pp/pdf, 1.3MB)

Advocate's Guide
(August 2007, 9pp/pdf, 1MB)

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