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By Dr. Brian McDonough, Medical Editor

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Puberty is occurring earlier, according to a report in the journal Pediatrics.

Compared to 15 years ago, a new study shows that young girls are developing breasts at an earlier age than before, due to a rise in obesity.

Researchers followed 6 to 8 year-old girls for 4 years and found that the age of breast development varied by ethnicity.

The average age of black females was 8.8 years old, Hispanic girls at 9.3 years, and white or Asian girls at 9.7 years.

As an example, the researchers found the onset of breast development in white girls is 4 months earlier than previous studies have shown. A strong association was seen that those with a higher bmi also had earlier breast development.

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