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Environ Health Perspect. 2016 Nov;124(11):1801-1807. Epub 2016 May 17.

Associations of Peripubertal Serum Dioxin and Polychlorinated Biphenyl Concentrations with Pubertal Timing among Russian Boys.

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Environmental and Occupational Medicine and Epidemiology Program, Department of Environmental Health, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.



Dioxins, furans, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dioxin-like and non-dioxin-like, have been linked to alterations in puberty.


We examined the association of peripubertal serum levels of these compounds [and their toxic equivalents (TEQs)] with pubertal onset and maturity among Russian boys enrolled at ages 8-9 years and followed prospectively through ages 17-18 years.


At enrollment, 473 boys had serum dioxin-like compounds and PCBs measured. At the baseline visit and annually until age 17-18 years, a physician performed pubertal staging [genitalia (G), pubarche (P), and testicular volume (TV)]. Three hundred fifteen subjects completed the follow-up visit at 17-18 years of age. Pubertal onset was defined as TV > 3 mL, G2, or P2. Sexual maturity was defined as TV ≥ 20 mL, G5, or P5. Multivariable interval-censored models were used to evaluate associations of lipid-standardized concentrations with pubertal timing.


Medians (interquartile ranges) of the sum of dioxin-like compounds, TEQs, and non-dioxin-like PCBs were 362 pg/g lipid (279-495), 21.1 pg TEQ/g lipid (14.4-33.2), and 250 ng/g lipid (164-395), respectively. In adjusted models, the highest compared to lowest TEQ quartile was associated with later pubertal onset [TV = 11.6 months (95% CI: 3.8, 19.4); G2 = 10.1 months (95% CI: 1.4, 18.8)] and sexual maturity [TV = 11.6 months (95% CI: 5.7, 17.6); G5 = 9.7 months (95% CI: 3.1, 16.2)]. However, the highest compared to the lowest quartile of non-dioxin-like PCBs, when co-adjusted by TEQs, was associated with earlier pubertal onset [TV = -8.3 months (95% CI:-16.2, -0.3)] and sexual maturity [TV = -6.3 months (95% CI:-12.2, -0.3); G5 = -7.2 months (95% CI:-13.8, -0.6)]; the non-dioxin-like PCB associations were only significant when adjusted for TEQs. TEQs and PCBs were not significantly associated with pubic hair development.


Our results suggest that TEQs may delay, while non-dioxin-like PCBs advance, the timing of male puberty. Citation: Burns JS, Lee MM, Williams PL, Korrick SA, Sergeyev O, Lam T, Revich B, Hauser R. 2016. Associations of peripubertal serum dioxin and polychlorinated biphenyl concentrations with pubertal timing among Russian boys. Environ Health Perspect 124:1801-1807;

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Conflict of interest statement

The opinions in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of the U.S. EPA or the NIEHS. T.L. is employed by Gradient (Cambridge, MA). The other authors declare they have no actual or potential competing financial interests.

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