Victoria's New Secret: Your 7-Year-Old May Be the New Kid on the Bra Store Block

Filed under: In The News, Development: Big Kids

child mirror picture

Girls, they grow up so fast. Too fast. Credit: Getty Images

For parents intent on keeping their little girls, well, just that -- little girls -- we hate to tell you, but tweendom is just around the corner. Translation: Your 7-year-old could be getting boobs.

Specialists in glands and hormones have noticed an alarming increase in girls as young as 6 or 7 showing signs of puberty, according to a new study conducted through the Breast Cancer and the Environment Research Centers, established in 2003 by the National Institute of Environmental Health Science and the National Cancer Institute.

That means the trek to the bra store and the pressure to cover those little bumps may be mounting earlier than you anticipated. The new study reported in the journal Pediatrics found that very young girls are showing protrusions from their chests earlier than ever before, increasing their risk of breast cancer and other health problems, as well as taunts from boys, says Frank Biro, M.D., director of adolescent medicine at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center and the study's lead author, in a release.

The study found that the proportion of girls who had breast development at ages 7 and 8, particularly among white girls, is greater than that reported from studies of girls who were born 10 to 30 years earlier, according to the release. At age 7, 10 percent of white girls, 23 percent of black girls and 15 percent of Hispanic girls had evidence of breast development.

The issue is of concern, Biro says in the release, for both medical and psychosocial reasons. Studies suggest that earlier puberty, as measured by the age a girl is at first menstruation, can slightly increase the risk of breast cancer.

"What causes earlier onset of puberty isn't entirely clear at this time, but we are looking closely at several different potential factors, including genes and environmental exposures, as well as how those two may interact with each other," Biro says.

Overweight girls were more likely to have more breast development, the study shows. But Biro says he does not think weight is the whole story. He adds in the release that it is possible environmental chemicals are also playing a role, and that future research will examine girls' hormone levels and their exposure to various chemicals.

What the study means for retailers, who have come under fire for offering over-sexualized clothing to kids, remains to be seen. Last April, a survey by the Guardian.co.uk, found an array of items available in major chains, from a T-shirt for a 3-year-old bearing the slogan "Future WAG" to a top for a toddler with a pink bikini appliquéd on the front.

The Guardian's report prompted British retailer Primark to remove its line of padded bras for little girls, according to TheAge.com.

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.