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Horm Res Paediatr. 2012;77(3):137-45. doi: 10.1159/000336325. Epub 2012 Apr 12.

Recent secular trends in pubertal timing: implications for evaluation and diagnosis of precocious puberty.

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Department of Growth and Reproduction, Rigshospitalet, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark.


The decline in age at puberty in the general population has been paralleled by an increase in the number of girls referred for evaluation of precocious puberty (PP). In 1999, The Lawson Wilkins Pediatric Endocrine Society recommended a lowering of the age limit for evaluation of PP in girls. However, the limited evidence on which these recommendations were based led many experts to question these new suggestions. The emergence of new European pubertal timing data evaluated by robust clinical as well as biochemical markers has broadened our insight on how to interpret the recent pubertal changes. The recent pubertal trends have resulted in a concomitant lowering of the lower limit of normality of the pubertal onset. However, evidence suggests that age at the gonadotropin and sex steroid surges have not changed. Thus, it looks as if an increasing proportion of contemporary early pubertal girls may experience isolated gonadotropin-independent thelarche rather than central PP, which may not be discernible on pubertal examination alone. Thus, the population-based limits of normality should not be directly translated into revision of age limits for evaluation of PP due to the risk of misdiagnosing rapid progressive PP as well as intracranial and other underlying pathology.

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