Puberty is a period of significant growth and development. For this reason, it is a period of high susceptibility to Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs).

For females, during puberty, the menstrual period starts and the breast develops to reach maturity.

Females who start puberty before eight years old have an increased breast cancer risk.

The link between exposure to EDC before puberty and the age at which puberty starts is still unclear.

Our tips to reduce your risk

Avoid cosmetics and perfumes that contain EDCs, look for fragrance-free or paraben/phthalate-free if possible.

Eat more fruit and vegetables and limit eating fast food.

Use period products made with organic cotton rather than plastic.

Avoid clothes that are stain-resistant or waterproof.

Stay active.

What is puberty?

Puberty is a time of significant growth and physical changes. Females usually start puberty between 8 and 13 years old, while males start between 9 and 14 years old.

What are the main changes in females during puberty?

The start of menstrual periods and the development of the breast. Both processes are controlled by hormones, mainly oestrogen.

EDCs can interfere with the normal function of hormones and may have an impact on puberty and breast development.

Is there a link between the age at puberty and breast cancer risk?

Starting menstrual periods early (before ten years old) and developing breasts early (before eight years old) have been linked with an increased risk of breast cancer.

Studies have shown that girls are now starting puberty at a younger age than girls who were born in the 1970s. With puberty starting at a younger age, the exposure to oestrogen throughout life is lengthened. Prolonged exposure to oestrogen is believed to increase breast cancer risk.

Does exposure to EDCs affect when puberty starts?

Studies that have investigated exposure to EDCs and age at puberty have been inconclusive. More research is needed to explore the link between EDC exposure and puberty and any possible effect on breast cancer risk.

For more details and references, please see our Critical Windows of Susceptibility for Breast Development science review.

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