Study: Obese girls may reach puberty earlier

A new study finds young girls with higher body mass index tend to have an earlier onset of puberty.

"They found that girls that are above the 85th percentile and considered overweight, were found to develop breasts earlier than they were 10 to 5 years ago," said Dr. Sara Lappe, a pediatrician at Cleveland Clinic Children's.

Researchers followed more than 1,200 girls for seven years. They measured breast development to determine the onset of puberty. In white, Hispanic and Asian girls, development began at an average age of 9.7 years, which is earlier than previously. African American girls started about a year sooner.

Researchers say BMI was a stronger predictor of puberty onset than race or ethnicity, which leads them to think the earlier onset of puberty in white girls is due to an increase in childhood obesity.

The researchers concluded that being overweight and reaching puberty early could put girls at an increased risk later in life.

"If you finish puberty earlier in life it can put you at risk for some diseases long-term, like breast cancer, which is probably a large concern in this group," said Lappe.

Complete findings for this study are available online in the journal "Pediatrics."

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