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Early Sexual Maturation: Does this Mean Puberty Has Started?

From the Show: Healthy Children
Summary: Recent studies suggest U.S. children today are developing some signs of sexual maturation earlier than in the past.
Air Date: 12/16/15
Duration: 10
Host: Melanie Cole, MS
Guest Bio: Paul Kaplowitz, MD, PhD
Paul KaplowitzPaul Kaplowitz, MD, attended college at University of Michigan, MD-PhD at University of Chicago, 1976, postgraduate training in pediatrics and pediatric endocrinology at University of North Carolina, 1976-82, on the faculty and VCU School of Medicine in Richmond VA 1982-2003, has worked at Children's National Medical Center 2003-present and was Chief of Endocrinology 2003-2013.

He was Chairperson of the American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Endocrinology 2008-2012. He has published many articles and reviews on the subject of early puberty particularly in girls and wrote a book for parents, Early Puberty in Girls, which was published by Ballantine Books in 2004. He has spoken on the subject to pediatricians and endocrinologists at many national meetings and has done many media interviews on the subject including two appearances on the Today Show.
Early Sexual Maturation: Does this Mean Puberty Has Started?
Recent studies suggest U.S. children today are developing some signs of sexual maturation earlier than in the past.

While this remains a common cause of parental anxiety and medical referrals, a new clinical report from the American Academy of Pediatrics says these early signs of development don't necessarily mean a child has started puberty.

According to the authors of "Evaluation and Referral of Children with Signs of Early Puberty," to be published in the January 2016 issue of Pediatrics, in many cases, signs such as early development of pubic hair or body odor are often normal variations of puberty that do not require extensive testing or treatment.

The report cites data highlighting puberty's age differences that can vary with patients' ethnicity, race, or obesity status. One recent study found that among seven- to eight-year-old patients, 23 percent of black, 15 percent of Hispanic and 10 percent of white girls had some degree of breast development.

Authors of the AAP report said it serves as a guide to knowing which signs simply require observation by a primary care provider and which merit referral to a pediatric endocrinology sub-specialist.

How do you know if you need to see a specialist?

Key warning signs of medical disorders possibly requiring treatment include progressive breast enlargement and rapid growth in girls younger than age eight or genital enlargement in boys younger than age nine.

Listen in as Paul Kaplowitz, MD, PhD, discusses the distinct differences between sexual maturation and puberty.

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