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Horm Res Paediatr. 2016;86(4):221-232. Epub 2016 Jan 23.

Contribution of the Endocrine Perspective in the Evaluation of Endocrine Disrupting Chemical Effects: The Case Study of Pubertal Timing.

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Developmental Neuroendocrinology Unit, GIGA Neurosciences, University of Liège, Sart-Tilman, Liège, Belgium.


Debate makes science progress. In the field of endocrine disruption, endocrinology has brought up findings that substantiate a specific perspective on the definition of endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs), the role of the endocrine system and the endpoints of hormone and EDC actions among other issues. This paper aims at discussing the relevance of the endocrine perspective with regard to EDC effects on pubertal timing. Puberty involves particular sensitivity to environmental conditions. Reports about the advancing onset of puberty in several countries have led to the hypothesis that the increasing burden of EDCs could be an explanation. In fact, pubertal timing currently shows complex changes since advancement of some manifestations of puberty (e.g. breast development) and no change or delay of others (e.g. menarche, pubic hair development) can be observed. In a human setting with exposure to low doses of tenths or hundreds of chemicals since prenatal life, causation is most difficult to demonstrate and justifies a translational approach using animal models. Studies in rodents indicate an exquisite sensitivity of neuroendocrine endpoints to EDCs. Altogether, the data from both human and animal studies support the importance of concepts derived from endocrinology in the evaluation of EDC effects on puberty.

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