Early Puberty In Girls Linked To Obesity

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Dr. Kristin Woodward explains.

Girls in the US are entering puberty at younger and younger ages.  A new study in the Journal Pediatrics has identified obesity as a major contributing factor.  The study followed about 1200 6-8 year old girls from 2004-2011.  Researchers found African American girls developed signs of puberty at 8.8 years, Hispanic girls at 9.3 years, and Caucasian girls at 9.7 years.  This is younger than what has been reported in previous studies, primarily for Caucasian girls.

The trend is concerning as girls who enter puberty have been shown to be at increased risk of developing depression and low self-esteem.  They are also more likely to be influenced by older peers and engage in risk taking behavior at an earlier age.  Previous studies have also shown women who entered puberty earlier have an increased risk of developing breast cancer and endometrial cancer.

While obesity is a major factor, environmental exposures have also been considered.  For example, do added hormones in food, lack of exercise, and exposure to chemicals also play a role?  There has been no consistent evidence that one specific environmental exposure is to blame.

What"s most important is parents need to talk to their child and their pediatrician if they have concerns about early puberty.  If there are concerns further evaluation may be done.  It is important to keep going to the pediatrician yearly so growth and development can be followed closely.  For more information visit, www.healthychildren.org.