Associations between early alcohol and tobacco use and prolonged time to puberty in boys

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Previous research has demonstrated a relationship between prepubertal alcohol and tobacco use and delayed pubertal characteristics in girls. Although, laboratory research indicates that alcohol and tobacco use inhibits sexual maturation in male rats, human research in this area is lacking. To address this question among boys, we conducted a study to explore the association between early use of alcohol and tobacco and time to development of secondary sexual characteristics.


The study population included 3199 boys interviewed between the ages of 11 and 21. Participants reported the ages at which they first experienced body hair growth, deepening of the voice and facial hair growth. Early alcohol and tobacco use were defined as first use preceding the age of pubertal development among those reporting regular consumption patterns. Hazard ratios (HR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) were calculated using Cox proportional hazard models.


Early alcohol use was associated with longer time to body hair growth (HR 0.77; 95% CI 0.69–0.87), voice changes (HR 0.72; 95% CI 0.64–0.82) and facial hair growth (HR 0.77; 95% CI 0.68–0.86), after adjusting for tobacco use and age at interview. Tobacco use was not independently associated with the puberty indicators after controlling for alcohol use and age at interview.


Our findings are consistent with the hypothesis that alcohol may inhibit puberty onset in boys, an association that has been previously observed among young girls. Thus, alcohol may be an exposure deserving more scrutiny as a disruptor to normal pubertal development.

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