Kids have always grown up so fast. Nowadays, it may be even faster. A new study finds boys are hitting puberty as early as age 9.
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Ellen Rome, MD, MPH, a pediatrician at Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital, says the exact cause is uncertain.
“What we think is that with more obesity comes earlier puberty,” she says. “Somehow the central mechanism gets turned on a little earlier.”
Regular checkups important
Dr. Rome says the findings stress the importance of regular checkups so parents can be aware of the situation — and intervene if they notice their child being treated inappropriately for his age.
For this study, published in the journal Pediatrics, researchers at the University of North Carolina compiled data on more than 4,100 boys. They were checking for things like genital hair growth and other characteristics of puberty.
Researchers found some boys are now reaching puberty six months to two years earlier than in past studies. However, they can’t say for sure that obesity or a tendency to be overweight is causing the early onset.
They say a British study done in 1969 is commonly used to compare pubertal norms, but this practice may need to be reevaluated.
Previous studies have already linked being overweight with an earlier onset of puberty in girls.
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