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J Pediatr. 2008 May;152(5):690-5, 695.e1. doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2007.10.020. Epub 2008 Feb 20.

High growth rate of girls with precocious puberty exposed to estrogenic mycotoxins.

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Department of Pediatrics, University of Pisa, Pisa, Italy.



To test the hypothesis that human puberty timing can be advanced by environmental estrogen exposure.


We analyzed serum mycoestrogen contamination via high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) in 32 girls affected by central precocious puberty (CPP) and in 31 healthy female control subjects. All 32 patients received triptorelin (TR) for more than 12 months after diagnosis.


Increased serum levels of zearalenone (ZEA; 933.7 +/- 200.3 pg/mL; 95% CI, 723.5-1143.9) and of its congener alpha-zearalenol (106.5 +/- 1.9 pg/mL; 95% CI, 104.5-108.5) contaminated 6 girls with CPP, who were from a bounded Tuscany area. At diagnosis, ZEA levels correlated with patient height (r = 0.906, P < .05) and weight (r = 0.887, P < .05), but not with bone age. In patients who were mycotoxin-positive, height (F = 4.192; P < .01), weight (F = 3.915; P < .01), and height velocity (F = 2.777, P < .05) were higher than patients who were mycotoxin-negative during 12-months TR treatment. Height correlated with weight both in patients who were mycotoxin-positive (r = 0.986, P < .001) and in patients who were mycotoxin-negative (r = 0.994, P < .001). Body mass index, bone age, and gonadal secretion was not different in patient groups before and during TR treatment (P > .05).


Mycoestrogenic zearalenone is suspected to be a triggering factor for CPP development in girls. Because of its chemical resemblance to some anabolic agents used in animal breeding, ZEA may also represent a growth promoter in exposed patients.

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