Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are endocrine-disrupting chemicals. Few studies have evaluated the association between pubertal development in girls and PAH exposures quantified by urinary biomarkers.
We examined associations of urinary PAH metabolites with pubertal development in 358 girls 6–16 years of age from the San Francisco Bay Area enrolled in a prospective cohort from 2011 to 2013 and followed until 2020. Using baseline data, we assessed associations of urinary PAH metabolites with pubertal development stage. In prospective analyses limited to girls who at baseline had not yet started breast (N = 176) or pubic hair (N = 179) development or menstruation (N = 267), we used multivariable Cox proportional hazards regression to assess associations of urinary PAH metabolites with the onset of breast and pubic hair development, menstruation, and pubertal tempo (interval between the onset of breast development and menstruation).
We detected PAH metabolites in >98% of girls. In cross-sectional analyses using baseline data, PAH metabolites were not associated with the pubertal development stage. In prospective analyses, higher concentrations (≥ median) of some PAH metabolites were associated with two-fold higher odds of earlier breast development (2-hydroxy naphthalene, 1-hydroxy phenanthrene, summed hydroxy phenanthrenes) or pubic hair development (1-hydroxy naphthalene) among girls overweight at baseline (body mass index-for-age percentile ≥85) compared with nonoverweight girls with lower metabolites concentrations. PAH metabolites were not associated with age at menarche or pubertal tempo.
PAH exposures were widespread in our sample. Our results support the hypothesis that, in overweight girls, PAHs impact the timing of pubertal development, an important risk factor for breast cancer.