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Pubertal development in girls: secular trends

Kaplowitz, Paul

Current Opinion in Obstetrics and Gynecology: October 2006 - Volume 18 - Issue 5 - p 487–491
doi: 10.1097/01.gco.0000242949.02373.09
Adolescent and pediatric gynecology
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Purpose of review To provide an overview of recent studies from the US and other parts of the world that provide conflicting data as to whether there has been a secular trend for earlier onset of puberty and menarche from about 1960 to the present.

Recent findings Studies from the US suggest a decrease in the age of onset of puberty over the past 40 years of between 0.5 and 1.0 years, with black girls maturing 0.5 to 1 year earlier than white girls. There has been a smaller decrease in the mean age at menarche, on the order of 0.2 years. Northern European countries have not reported such a trend, but several other countries have. The most likely explanation for this trend is an increase in the prevalence of obesity in children.

Summary In light of the above trends, the view that onset of any pubertal changes prior to age 8 years requires an extensive evaluation should be reevaluated. The majority of such early-maturing girls are normal girls at the early end of the age distribution for pubertal onset. As much attention should be paid to the rate of progression of pubertal findings as to their age of appearance.

Children's National Medical Center, Washington, DC, USA

Correspondence to Paul Kaplowitz, MD, PhD, 111 Michigan Ave NW, Washington, DC 20010, USA Tel: +202 884 3808; fax: +202 884 4095; e-mail: pkaplowi@cnmc.org

© 2006 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.