Researchers have gathered more evidence on the link between low birth weight and the early onset of puberty. Children who gain weight rapidly in their first two years of life are also more likely to reach puberty early, they said.

The latest study, from scientists at the Research Institute of Child Nutrition in Dortmund, Germany, followed 215 boys and girls from infancy to the age of 13, and found that those weighing between 2.5kg and 3kg at birth started their puberty growth spurt around seven months earlier than babies who were heavier, while those who gained weight quickly in the first two years of life started their growth spurt four months earlier than those who had put on weight at a normal rate. The experts also confirmed that girls who gained weight quickly as a baby tend to start their periods early. The study was funded by the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) and was published in this month's American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Specialists 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.

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