Blue light emitted from smartphones and tablets could cause the onset of early puberty in boys – and possibly damage their fertility, warns a new study.
Scientists say their discovery shows how environmental factors such as screen time can impact early puberty and testicular tissue.
They believe a spike in early puberty in both boys and girls during the pandemic might even be down to more screen time.
The team from Ankara Bilkent City Hospital and Gazi University in Turkey had previously shown that blue light was linked to early puberty in female rats but this was the first time research had been carried out on male rats.
They presented their findings, published in the journal Frontiers in Endocrinology, at the 61st Annual European Society for Paediatric Endocrinology Meeting in The Hague.
There are many causes of early onset puberty in children with genetics or problems in the thyroid, adrenal or sex glands often to blame.
For this study, the team examined 18 male rats aged 21 days old, divided into three groups of six and exposed to either a normal light cycle, to six hours or 12 hours of blue light.
The researchers found that the first signs of puberty occurred significantly earlier in male rats exposed to blue light.
Additionally, the longer the rats were exposed to blue light, the earlier their puberty started, while they also showed suppressed sperm development and damaged testicular tissue.
Lead researcher Dr Aylin Kılınç Uğurlu said: “For the first time, we found a direct relationship between blue light exposure and early puberty in male rats.
“Our findings align with our previous work on female rats, which also showed similar effects, thereby providing a more comprehensive view of how blue light may influence puberty in both male and female rats.”
While the findings suggest that blue light exposure could potentially be a risk factor for earlier puberty onset, the team say more research is needed.
Dr. Kılınç Uğurlu added: “I want to emphasize that this is a rat study and direct results cannot be interpreted for humans.
“However, we provide an experimental foundation to further investigate the health consequences of ever-increasing screen time in modern society.
“We aim to expose both male and female rats to blue light before puberty and understand its long-term effects on reproductive organ damage and fertility.
“Ultimately, this research could lead to preventative measures and contribute to the ongoing discourse on how modern lifestyles affect physiological development and long-term health.”
Produced in association with SWNS Talker
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