There can be quite a difference between the number of candles on your birthday cake and the physical age of your body. This discrepancy, known as a biological age as opposed to a typical chronological age, can reveal health problems associated with premature aging in adults, and now scientists have devised a tool to study it in children for the first time.

This newly published research centers on the science of epigenetics, which refers to alterations in gene expression that can come about by environmental factors, changing how our cells and tissues behave without changing the underlying DNA sequence. This field of study has shown promise as a way of identifying health concerns, such as breast and cervical cancers in adults, and now scientists at Canada’s University of British of Columbia want to explore its potential with regard to young children.

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