The number of children experiencing premature puberty has surged in recent years, triggering concerns for their health in later life.
A report published by the National Health Insurance Service on Monday shows some 95-thousand children experienced premature puberty in 2017, a 42-point3-percent jump from 2013, or an increase of nine.two percent on average annually.
Half of the children were aged between five and nine.
Premature puberty happens when girls aged under eight and boys aged under nine begin physically developing into adults too soon.
Various medical studies suggest the early onset of puberty could lead to mental and behavioral disorders, breast and ovarian cancer in girls and testicular cancer in boys, and could stunt growth.
Although the number of boys experiencing early puberty has increased at a greater rate than girls, figures show a whopping nine out of ten children with the condition are female.
The report cites increasing levels of pollution which can trigger the production of hormones which function similarly to estrogen as the possible cause for the increase.
Another major cause is a shift in food consumption to a more Western, high-fat diet as fat cells are known to produce estrogen.
"The earlier the girls come into contact with such chemicals, the longer their exposure to the hormones, which generally raises the risk of premature puberty. Family medical history and personal characteristics, of course, also come into play."
The symptoms, such as breast growth, the start of menstration, and the development of sweat glands, are usually treated with hormone therapy.
To reduce the risk of premature puberty, doctors recommend reducing the use of plastic products in everyday life as well as the consumption of fast food.
Oh Soo-young, Arirang News.