Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Breast-Feeding Correlates with Reduced Risk of Leukemia

Yet another reason to consider breast-feeding your baby; a study just published in JAMA Pediatrics reports that children who are breast-fed for at least 6 months have a 19% lower risk of developing childhood leukemia compared to children who are not breast fed at all. Childhood leukemia, a type of blood cancer, is a leading cause of death among children and adolescents.

Scientists have long known that breast milk contains antibodies and immune-strengthening compounds that help support the infant's immature immune system. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that women breast-feed their infants because it lowers the risk of infections and allergies, among other known benefits. But this is the first time that a correlation between breast-feeding and reduced risk of leukemia has been documented.

Of course, the finding of a correlation between breast-feeding and reduced leukemia risk does not prove that it is actually breast-feeding (or breast mik) that lowers the risk of leukemia. Remember, a correlation does not prove cause and effect. It could be something else entirely. It does fit, though, with what we know about breast milk and the role of the immune system in recognizing and destroying abnormal (cancerous) cells.

Perhaps some day we'll know for sure if indeed breast milk lowers leukemia risk. But for now, the study's authors can only conclude that breast-feeding may lower the risk of childhood leukemia.

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