Oestrogen was once used regularly to curb the growth of tall girls, but its use is now far less widespread, according to a recent survey. However, one advocacy group has called for an end to growth-suppression therapy, and petitioned the US government to place a warning label on all oestrogen products.
"My gripe is that nobody knows if it's safe or not," said Dr Neal Barnard of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. Yet "kids have been treated since the 1950s. Why has there been no monitoring?" Barnard, a well-known oestrogen critic, told the Associated Press.
Girls' increasing production of oestrogen during puberty causes the skeleton to mature so that growth eventually stops. Giving them oestrogen pills can speed up that bone maturation and suppress.
In the past, very tall mothers would bring their daughters to hormone clinics to ask for the oestrogen pills to curb their daughters' growth, but modern views of tall women are no so much different that there is little call for the therapy.
Barnard surveyed 715 members of the nation's largest group of paediatric endocrinologists. Of the 411 doctors who responded, just 22 per cent had prescribed growth-suppressing oestrogen for between one and five tall girls within five years.
However, this was still too high for Barnard. His advocacy group has filed a petition asking the Food and Drug Administration to place warning labels on all oestrogen products, telling doctors and parents that the hormone has never been approved for such use and could be dangerous.
The FDA said it was concerned that girls could be exposed to untested treatments and that it would review the petition carefully, but added that there was no reason to consider oestrogen an imminent danger.