(NBC) - Girls are hitting puberty earlier than ever before. It's a trendthat could have harmful short- and long-term consequences.
Medical experts say young girls' bodies are maturing faster thantheir brains can keep up. A new study from Cincinnati Children'sHospital finds 42 percent of African-American girls have hitpuberty by the age of 8 years old, making them little girls inteenage bodies.
"Simply because one is physically more mature does not mean theyare any more socially mature or psychologically mature," said Dr.Frank Biro of Cincinnati Children's Hospital.
The study looks at how many 7-year-old and 8-year-old girlsrecently showed signs of puberty and compares the numbers to asimilar study from 13 years ago.
In the latter study, the age at which girls hit pubertydecreased among all races. Even though the percentage of youngwhite girls entering puberty isn't as high as other races, theirnumbers doubled.
Researchers said the rise in childhood obesity could be onecause for the increase as well as environmental toxins such as"food that they've eaten, or products that are used for personalcare products, as well as products that could be used at theirhomes," said Biro.
Other research has linked an early puberty with an increasedrisk for breast cancer.
The study looked specifically at breast maturity in young girls.Whether that also plays a role in cancer development remains to beseen.
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