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What's 'normal' for puberty

January 28, 2008

So the medical community would rather change the definition of "normal" instead of search for the anomaly that causes little girls to develop breasts ["Modern Puberty," Jan. 21]? This further proves how far the bar has been lowered when it comes to accepted medical guidelines.

Jill Chapin

Santa Monica


I was surprised that no studies on girls raised in vegetarian families were cited. I would think that one of the prime suspects would be the hormones added to our meat supply. Have any such studies been done? I would think it would be easy to do, since we have large vegetarian communities within our society.

Margaret Mood

Santa Ana


Marcia Herman-Giddens believes designing a study in which girls are deliberately exposed to higher doses of estrogen-like chemicals in the environment is unethical, and I agree. What about a study that deliberately reduces their exposure? I did that while raising my two daughters. Throughout their childhood, they consumed no beef and pork raised on hormones and antibiotics or dairy products containing hormones or antibiotics.

Their breasts began developing at 11 or 12, and both began menstruating at 14 -- like me, raised in the 1950s, before science "improved" our food.

Roberta Williams

Redondo Beach


Whom should parents, as well as your writers, believe: expert endocrinologists, such as textbook author Dr. Paul Kaplowitz, who clearly points at better public health measures and the rise in obesity as reasons; or biologist Sandra Streingraber, who conducted research for a group trying to find environmental causes of breast cancer and is quoted as stating, "They've introduced all these chemicals into the environment . . . . What are they, nuts?"? Is this the reasoned analysis of a scientist or the backward logic of an activist?

Chemicals are indeed ubiquitous, but their presence in trace amounts in our bodies does not mean that they are behind the change in breast development. This more likely reflects improvements in nutrition, although the latter may have gone too far, given the problems with rising obesity.

Gilbert Ross

New York, N.Y.

The writer is executive and medical director of the American Council on Science and Health.

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