Breast-feeding found to reduce infant leukemia

Travis Reed

According to a University study published today in The Journal of the National Cancer Institute, breast-feeding might significantly lower the risk of leukemia in children.
Researchers found that the risk of the disease in children was 21 percent lower among those breast-fed for at least one month and 30 percent lower for those who were breast-fed for six months or more.
The study was conducted by Leslie Robison and Joseph Neglia of the University Cancer Center in collaboration with the Children’s Cancer Group, a national hospital network.
“This certainly adds support to the argument for breast-feeding of children,” Neglia said. “Breast-feeding modulates a young child’s immune system, maybe making it possible to halt the leukemic process.”
Although there have been other studies indicating a link between breast-feeding and protection from leukemia, Neglia said that their most recent study provided more conclusive results.
“The research wasn’t the first, but was by far the largest of its kind,” he said. “As such, it was able to look at these questions more effectively.
“Other studies have suggested a protective effect from leukemia, and this study more strongly supported that.”
The researchers contacted mothers whose children had been diagnosed with cancer and surveyed them about their pregnancy and the early years of their children’s lives. The findings were compared to those of a control group, with children of similar age, race and geographic location.
Leukemia is a form of cancer that arises in white blood cells. It is the most common form of childhood cancer, affecting nearly 2,500 children in the United States each year. It accounts for nearly one-third of all cases of malignancy in children under the age of 15.
Though the University’s research results are seen as an important step toward decreasing the risk of cancer in children, experts say additional studies are needed before conclusive results can be determined.
“The true impact of this is not going to be clear until other investigators have had a chance to reproduce this,” Neglia said. “Other studies are currently going on in the United Kingdom and in Canada that will look at this relationship and hopefully confirm our results.”
Neglia also said that there are many good reasons to breast-feed aside from the benefits it might provide in protection from leukemia, including a stronger level of mother-to-child bonding, reduced risk of diarrhea and a decreased risk of other infections.

Travis Reed welcomes comments at [email protected]