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Low Birth Weight Linked To Early Puberty

December 11, 2009

Experts have gathered more evidence on the link between low birth weight and youngsters reaching puberty at an early age, according to a recent Reuters report.

Those who gain weight rapidly in their first two years of life are also more likely to reach puberty early, they said.

The study, in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, suggests the onset of puberty may occur from 4 to 7 months earlier among boys and girls who weighed less than normal at birth and among those who rapidly gained weight from birth through the age of 2.

Experts from the WCRF said going into puberty at an early age is linked to an increased risk of some cancers, including breast cancer and testicular cancer.

It has also been linked to other hormonal changes that could play a role in cancer’s development.

Lead researcher, Professor Anja Kroke, said: “More studies are now needed to identify the physiological mechanisms by which a low birth weight and rapid early weight gain affect the timing of the pubertal growth spurt. In addition, by gaining a better understanding of why early puberty increases cancer risk, we can improve our understanding of the causes of cancer, and therefore raises the possibility of preventing future cancer cases.”

Dr Panagiota Mitrou, science program manager for the WCRF, said: “This study has identified early life factors that increase a child’s chances of starting puberty early, which shows that what happens to us even in the womb can influence risk factors for diseases much later in life. More research is needed before we can better understand the relevance of these findings for public health. Only then can start looking at whether we need to take steps to prevent low birth weight or monitor weight gain in infancy.”

“Until more research is done, the best advice for parents is to give their children a healthy start in life by encouraging them to get into the habit of eating a healthy plant-based diet, be physically active and maintain a healthy weight. We estimate that doing these three things could prevent about a third of the most common cancers in the UK,” Mitrou added.

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