What effects does oestrogen have on an adolescent girl?

Written by carole wegner
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What effects does oestrogen have on an adolescent girl?
Oestrogen is a powerful steroid regulating many aspects of adolescent development (Getty Thinkstock)

Oestrogen has different effects on an adolescent girl depending on whether oestrogen is produced by her ovaries or is taken to treat a medical condition. The oestrogen levels in the blood and the dose used also determines the effect of oestrogen on an adolescent girl.

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Regulates normal puberty

As girls enter puberty during adolescence, oestrogen produced by their ovaries stimulates maturation of breast tissue and also stimulates monthly growth of the uterine lining. Precocious puberty can occur when a disease condition causes over-production of oestrogen before normal puberty should start. Drugs that inhibit a key enzyme in oestrogen synthesis called aromatase-inhibitors can be used to slow down precocious puberty according to Dr. P. Feuillan and colleagues in an article published in the journal "Endocrine-Related Cancer" in 1999.

During puberty, oestrogen at very low levels stimulates growth and bone maturation according to a study published by Dr. G.B. Cutler, Jr. in the April 1997 issue of the "Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology." Surprisingly, bone growth in both adolescent boys and girls was stimulated by very low levels of oestrogen. This stimulating role of oestrogen at low levels was opposite to the previously shown role of oestrogen at higher levels, namely to cause bone growth plates to mature and stop adding new bone, limiting a person's adult height.

Although the growth stimulating effect was observed at low oestrogen levels, girls still had eight times more oestrogen in their blood streams than adolescent boys, possibly explaining why girls typically reach their final mature height sooner than boys, according to the study's authors.

Terminates growth spurts

Since the 1950s, some doctors have given adolescent girls large doses of supplemental oestrogen to medically terminate their normal growth spurt in order to limit their final adult height for social reasons. Women who were given oestrogen treatment as adolescents to limit their height were much more likely to have fertility problems as adults compared to women who did not receive oestrogen treatment according to Dr. A Venn and colleagues in an article published in the October 2004 issue of "Lancet." Women receiving high doses of oestrogen as girls were 40 percent less likely to conceive in any given menstrual cycle, more likely to have failed to conceive for at least 12 months and more likely to have needed fertility medications.

Treats effects of Turner Syndrome

Turner Syndrome is a genetic disorder in which a girl inherits only one X sex chromosome, instead of two, resulting in various developmental problems including short height, diminished ovarian capacity, premature ovarian failure and learning difficulties.. Because the ovary does not develop completely, oestrogen levels are extremely low or absent and oestrogen supplementation is typically started by the age of 12 to allow puberty to occur.

Girls with Turner Syndrome typically have more problems in social settings, often having difficulty reading other people's emotional reactions. Oestrogen treatment for adolescents with Turner Syndrome may have a beneficial effect on their psychological well-being according to Dr. J.L. Ross and colleagues in their study published in the March 1996 issue of "Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism." Parents reported improved behaviour and girls reported increased self-esteem and ability to handle social situations.

Girls with Turner Syndrome are more likely to have learning problems with maths and spatial concepts according to the Mayo Clinic in America. Oestrogen treatment of adolescent girls with Turner Syndrome may help improve both verbal and non-verbal memory according to Dr. J.L. Ross and colleagues in a study published in 2000 in the journal "Neurology."

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