Early Puberty and Telomere Length in Preadolescent Girls and Mothers.
OBJECTIVE: To test the association between early puberty and telomere length in preadolescent girls and mothers from a large representative sample of US females.
STUDY DESIGN: We analyzed data from 1194 preadolescent girls and 2421 mothers from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study. Participants were from a population-based birth cohort (1998-2000) born in large US cities. Telomere length was assessed by quantitative polymerase chain reaction from saliva samples provided by preadolescent girls and mothers of preadolescent youth. Mothers completed a questionnaire about their child's pubertal development to determine concurrent Tanner stages and provided self-reports of her own age at menarche. Linear regression models were used to estimate the association between pubertal development (status and timing) and telomere length.
RESULTS: Early pubertal timing but not pubertal status was associated with shorter telomere length in preadolescent girls (P < .01). Early age at menarche was associated with shorter telomere length in a sample of mothers of preadolescent youth (P < .05).
CONCLUSIONS: Results provide evidence for the association between early puberty and shorter telomeres evidenced by associations in both preadolescent girls and mothers. Future research should address the limitations of this study by using longitudinal measurements of pubertal development assessed through medical examinations and repeated assessments of telomere length to capture telomere attrition.