Environmental factors and puberty timing: Expert panel research needs
Serono Symposia International convened an expert panel to review the impact of environmental influences on the regulation of pubertal onset and progression while identifying critical data gaps and future research priorities. An expert panel reviewed the literature on endocrine-disrupting chemicals, body size, and puberty. The panel concluded that available experimental animal and human data support a possible role of endocrine-disrupting chemicals and body size in relation to alterations in pubertal onset and progression in boys and girls. Critical data gaps prioritized for future research initiatives include (1) etiologic research that focus on environmentally relevant levels of endocrine-disrupting chemicals and body size in relation to normal puberty as well as its variants, (2) exposure assessment of relevant endocrine-disrupting chemicals during critical windows of human development, and (3) basic research to identify the primary signal(s) for the onset of gonadotropin-releasing hormone–dependent/central puberty and gonadotropin-releasing hormone–independent/peripheral puberty. Prospective studies of couples who are planning pregnancies or pregnant women are needed to capture the continuum of exposures at critical windows while assessing a spectrum of pubertal markers as outcomes. Coupled with comparative species studies, such research may provide insight regarding the causal ordering of events that underlie pubertal onset and progression and their role in the pathway of adult-onset disease.