The first signs of puberty are arriving at ever earlier ages for American girls. It is now no longer uncommon for girls to begin breast development at the age of 8 or 9.
Earlier breast development is now so pervasive that the Lawson Wilkins Pediatric Endocrine Society has advocated for a change in the definition of "normal" development to a lower starting age. A 1997 study showed that among 17,000 girls in North Carolina, almost half of African Americans and 15 percent of whites had begun breast development by age 8.
Some parents and activists suspect environmental chemicals or the cause, and many pediatricians and endocrinologists points to the obesity epidemic as a factor.
* Los Angeles Times January 21, 2008