Puberty onset is more of a range than an exact age or time, but for some girls, one aspect of puberty comes far too early: breast growth. Unfortunately, early breast growth can be a predictor of later health problems such as type 2 diabetes. In new research, scientists explore whether delaying breast growth may be helpful in reducing the risk of disease.

The research revealed a way to stop the premature growth of breasts without having to stop puberty altogether. According to the study, an immune molecule named ACKR2 prevents cells called macrophages from moving into the breasts until the female is old enough. What’s more, animal research has shown that mice without ACKR2 start puberty early. The researchers hope that the identification of this molecule could help them predict which young children will enter puberty early, and then slow down the process,

Read: Early Puberty Is More Common Than Ever

According to The Conversation, at the moment, the only way to stop puberty is to cause the pituitary glands to stop producing puberty-triggering hormones. However, if successful, this molecule may offer an alternative.

The next step is to carry out studies in humans to see if prepubescent girls with low levels of ACKR2 will also go on to develop breasts early. If so, it may be possible to predict early puberty by testing young children and boosting levels of the molecule to halt the process.

While delaying the onset of puberty may not be feasible, at least not yet, there are other ways you can help reduce both yours and your children’s chances of developing type 2 diabetes. For example, according to the American Diabetes Association, keeping a healthy body weight is one of the easiest ways to lower your risk. In addition, managing your blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels all help to reduce your risk. This can be done through a healthy diet and ensuring proper and regular exercise.

Source: Wilson GJ, Hewitt KD, Pallas KJ, et al. Atypical chemokine receptor ACKR2 controls branching morphogenesis in the developing mammary gland. Development. 2017

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