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Ann Hum Biol. 2012 Sep;39(5):361-71. doi: 10.3109/03014460.2012.697579. Epub 2012 Jul 11.

Growth as a mirror: is endocrine disruption challenging Tanner's concept?

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Center for the Elimination of Minority Health Disparities, University at Albany, A&S 237, 1400 Washington Avenue, Albany, NY 12222, USA.



James Tanner coined the expression 'Growth as a Mirror' and summarized in four words the results of more than a century of research on growth. Nineteenth century social reformers saw poor child growth as a reflection of terrible environmental conditions of the working class. Later investigators in anthropology and other fields clarified the connections between poor nutrition, disease, psychosocial stress and poor growth.


To evaluate the growth as a mirror concept in light of recent studies of endocrine disruption. PAPERS AND IMPLICATIONS: Pollution is recognized as a prominent component of the modern environment. From studies of many pollutants it is clear that some pollutants depress growth while others speed sexual maturation and increase growth, primarily in weight and fatness. While such unwelcome environmental features do not always suppress growth, growth still mirrors the environment in all its complexity and this relationship is key to understanding growth patterns today. For example, Akwesasne Mohawk adolescents are characterized by high rates of obesity and overweight. Their growth reflects the multiple intersecting influences of psychosocial stress, several pollutant exposures and limited dietary choices.


Although Tanner did not anticipate the myriad influences of pollutants, the growth as a mirror concept continues to have great validity and utility.

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