A new study published by Pediatrics says obesity is the largest predictor of earlier onset puberty in girls. Researchers in Cincinnati (Children's Hospital), San Francisco and New York City studied 1,239 girls ranging in age from 6 to 8 at enrollment and followed at regular intervals from 2004 to 2011.
Girls with early maturation have greater risk of these:
- breast cancer
- ovarian cancer
- endometrial cancer
- lower self-esteem
- lower academic achievement
Lead investigator Dr. Frank Biro said body mass index was a stronger predictor of earlier puberty than race or ethnicity. He says environmental and physiological factors also play a role. The research team is still working to confirm more specifics.
Biro says parents can go organic when it comes to the dirty dozen fruits and vegetables and promote a healthy low-fat diet.
In the study, breast development began in white, non-Hispanic girls, at a median age of 9.7 years, earlier than previously reported. Black girls began at a median age of 8.8 years and the median age for Hispanic girls in the study was 9.3 years and 9.7 for Asian girls.
The study was conducted through the Breast Cancer and Environmental Research Program, established by the National Institute of Environmental Health Science.