New Users Registration  |  Useful Links  |  FAQ  |  Site Map 
Go Search


Skip Navigation LinksHealth Xchange > News
  2013 2015   Dec 2015 | Nov 2015 | Oct 2015 | Sep 2015 | Aug 2015 | Jul 2015 | Jun 2015 | May 2015 | Apr 2015 | Mar 2015 | Feb 2015 | Jan 2015 |
  2013 2014   Dec 2014 | Nov 2014 | Oct 2014 | Sep 2014 | Aug 2014 | Jul 2014 | Jun 2014 | May 2014 | Apr 2014 | Mar 2014 | Feb 2014 | Jan 2014 |
  2013   Dec 2013 | Nov 2013 | Oct 2013 | Sep 2013 | Aug 2013 | Jul 2013 | Jun 2013 | May 2013 | Apr 2013 | Mar 2013 | Feb 2013 | Jan 2013 |
  2012   Dec 2012 | Nov 2012 | Oct 2012 | Sep 2012 | Aug 2012 | Jul 2012Jun 2012May 2012Apr 2012Mar 2012 | Feb 2012 | Jan 2012 |
  2011   Dec 2011Nov 2011Oct 2011 | Sep 2011 | Aug 2011Jul 2011Jun 2011 | May 2011 | Apr 2011 | Mar 2011 | Feb 2011 | Jan 2011 |
  2010   Dec 2010 | Nov 2010 | Oct 2010 | Sep 2010 | Aug 2010 | Jul 2010 | Jun 2010 | May 2010 | Apr 2010 | Mar 2010 | Feb 2010 | Jan 2010 |
  2009   Dec 2009 | Nov 2009 | Oct 2009 | Sep 2009 | Aug 2009 |
  Health Policy and Announcements | Diseases and Outbreaks
  Medical Research | New Treatments and Technology
  Singapore   SingHealth | Health Promotion Board | Ministry of Health | Asiaone
  International   World Health Organization | Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (US)
  News Article  

More girls in S’pore reaching puberty early

  Tuesday, 17 l 08 l 2010 Source:  The Straits Times   
By: Salma Khalik

Some are experiencing puberty at age six; they are likely to be obese

A TREND that has surfaced in developed countries around the world – more girls reaching puberty at a younger age – is also being seen here, doctors say.

No studies have been done on the phenomenon here, but doctors contacted by The Straits Times say they have noticed an increase in such cases over the past decade.

Most girls reach puberty at the age of 10 or 11, though it is considered normal if this occurs between the ages of eight and 13. However, more girls here are growing breasts and/or pubic hair at age seven.

Associate Professor Lee Yung Seng, a senior consultant in paediatric endocrinology at the National University Hospital (NUH), said the hospital now sees six to eight such cases a month, an increase of about 20 to 30 per cent compared to 10 years ago.

He estimates that the phenomenon occurs in between 3 and 5 per cent of young girls in Singapore.

And while seven is already considered young, KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH) gets about 100 cases a year where girls six years and younger are experiencing the early onset of puberty, said Associate Professor Fabian Yap, its head of paediatric endocrinology.

The doctors’ experience mirrors the results of a recent study conducted in the United States, which found that girls are more likely today than in the past to start developing breasts by age seven or eight.

American researchers suspect that higher obesity rates are largely responsible. Some also think that environmental chemicals which mimic the effects of oestrogen may be speeding up the clock on puberty, but that link is as yet unproven.

Singapore doctors also see the link between obesity and the early onset of puberty.

Nutrition plays a part in this, theysaid: The body needs a certain amount of fat to reproduce. Once it has enough, it triggers the move towards puberty.

This is possibly why early onset of puberty is more often seen in fat girls.

Dr Vera Oh, a paediatrician at Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre, said more than half of the seven-year-old girls she has seen with early puberty are obese.

The early onset of puberty is of concern for several reasons.

Girls who experience it are likely to grow up shorter, for one, the doctors say. Since they begin their growth spurts at a younger age, they might stop growing by the time they hit 12 or 13, instead of at 16, which is the norm.

Recent reports also said studies suggest that earlier puberty, as measured by the age at first menstruation, can slightly increase the risk of breast cancer, probably because it results in longer lifetime exposure to the hormones oestrogen and progesterone, which can feed some tumours.

Earlier-than-normal puberty also has an emotional impact on girls. Those who experience it are too young to deal with the surge of hormones they experience at that stage of life, and could turn aggressive.

A girl whose mind is not sufficiently developed although her body is might also have trouble fending off unwanted sexual advances.

However, Dr Oh cautioned that not all girls who start showing signs of puberty at an early age would suffer ill-effects.

“Some dawdle along, while others progress at a fast pace,” she said. This is why doctors sometimes monitor the progress of such patients before acting.

Doctors stressed that the most important course of action when encountering early puberty is to rule out sinister reasons, such as a tumour. In boys, early puberty – a rare phenomenon – is usually triggered by a serious illness, such as a brain tumour.

This could be true for some girls too, doctors, said.

There are safe drugs available to delay early puberty, Prof Lee said, but administering them requires monthly injections.

He added that whether to stop the onset of puberty is often merely a matter of preference.

Dr Oh agreed, as the vast majority of girls with early puberty do not face too many problems.

She added that ensuring that children are not obese could help, and is certainly better for their health generally.

  Ask the Specialists - Free Doctor Q&A  
    Advanced Care Planning
Take this opportunity to ask our experts on what advance care planning is all about, as well as the other directives.
    Previous Q&As
Check out our archive for all our previous doctor's Q&As!
*Latest Update: Speech and Language Problems in Children, Gynaecological Cancers: Cervical and Ovarian Cancers, Colorectal Problems, Screening, Risks & Symptoms
e-Appointment Online
Health Buddy App