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Response to okaawhatever (Reply #40)

Fri Jul 5, 2013, 02:10 PM

104. Puerto Rico, Haiti and Italy are among countries which have had epidemics of thelarche

And early sexual development.

Early studies linked these to high levels of hormones in food, including chicken. Newer studies seem to be looking at phtalates more.



I remember reading an article about this in MS magazine in the 1970's. That article was about children starting puberty at extremely early ages - some as young as 2yrs old. In addition, some of the boys also developed female characteristics such as enlarged breasts. The article postulated that U.S. agriculture was injecting poultry with even larger than usual amounts of hormones and selling them in Puerto Rico and that this could be the cause.

I couldn't find that article on a quick search, but found more info.

http://envirocancer.cornell.edu/Newsletter/articles/v6premature.cfm


Premature Thelarche in Puerto Rico
Since 1979, pediatric endocrinologists in Puerto Rico have detected an alarming increase in the number of patients with premature thelarche (Pérez, 1982; Bongiovanni, 1983). Among the hypotheses proposed to explain the observed premature sexual development in this US Caribbean island territory, the most controversial theory associated thelarche with the subject's diet. Sáenz et al. (1985) suggested that dairy and meat products were contaminated with anabolic estrogenic chemicals, which are used for increasing muscle mass in cattle and poultry. In 1985, studies conducted by the US Department of Agriculture, in conjunction with a scientific commission from the Puerto Rico Department of Health, led to the conclusion that no abnormal levels of the suspected chemicals were present in the approximately 800 samples of meat and dairy products that were analyzed (Montgomery, unpublished data). Other theories are still under consideration, such as the association with ovarian cysts, premature endogenous production of sexual hormones, and environmental contamination by pharmaceutical waste products. These theories do not establish a strong association with the majority of the cases reported (Freni-Titulaer, et al., 1986). Also, a genetic predisposition of Puerto Rican girls for developing premature thelarche is unlikely. Investigation of this ethnic group in the Philadelphia area did not reveal a similar pattern of early sexual development (Freni-Titulaer, et al., 1986). Moreover, other ethnic groups living in Puerto Rico are also affected by the condition (Freni-Titulaer, et al., 1986).

In 1987, the Puerto Rico Department of Health created by law the Premature Thelarche and Early Sexual Development (PTESD) Registry in response to the observed increase in cases (Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, 1989). This is the only world registry created for the study of premature sexual development in a human population. The objectives of this surveillance system are to define the epidemiologic, clinical, and etiologic aspects of the different manifestations of premature sexualdevelopment on the island. Although the registry was established in 1988, retrospective data to 1969 and prospective data to 2001 have been collected. In this time period, approximately 7,600 cases of premature sexual development have been registered, of which 70% are premature thelarche cases. Based on the data accumulated by the registry, the estimated annual average incidence rate of premature thelarche in Puerto Rican girls 6-24 months of age is eight cases per 1,000 live female births from 1984 to 1993 (Bourdony, 1998). This incidence is, to our knowledge, the highest ever reported. Compared to a study conducted in Minnesota (Van Winter, et al., 1990), this estimated incidence of premature thelarche in the Puerto Rican female population is 18.5 times higher. The actual incidence is much higher since only the cases diagnosed by some of the pediatric endocrinologists practicing in the island are being recorded by the Registry. The other 30% of registered cases consist of premature sexual hair, strong (apocrine) odor in both sexes, vaginal bleeding in females and prepubertal enlarged breasts (gynecomastia) in males. No studies have been conducted to define the clinical, epidemiologic, etiologic or prognostic characteristics of these conditions.


http://www.nytimes.com/2006/10/17/science/17puberty.html?fta=y


At the annual Pediatric Academic Society meeting in May in San Francisco, they presented a report that described how a preschool-age girl, and then her kindergarten-age brother, mysteriously began growing pubic hair. These cases were not isolated; in 2004, pediatric endocrinologists from San Diego reported a similar cluster of five children.

It turns out that there have been clusters of cases in which children have prematurely developed signs of puberty, outbreaks similar to epidemics of influenza or environmental poisonings. In 1979, the medical journal The Lancet described an outbreak of breast enlargement among hundreds of Italian schoolchildren, probably caused by estrogen contamination of beef and poultry. Similar epidemics in Puerto Rico and Haiti were tracked by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the 1980’s.




Note that Italy banned hormone use after details like the study above came out. If you search on the terms thelarche, gynecomastia, hormones, precocious development, etc, you'll find numerous articles addressing this and many scientific studies trying to determine the cause, mostly looking at food and environment (including pesticide use, etc.).

Here's a reference to one of the earlier ones from Puerto Rico, for example:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3928858


Given his phrasing and the regions affected, I think it's more likely he was referring to these incidents and these studies.

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