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Prolonged Formula Feeding Associated with Childhood Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia

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Prolonged Formula Feeding Associated with Childhood Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia

According to an epidemiological study presented at the 11th Annual AACR International Conference Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research online, prolonged feeding with formula increases the risk of childhood leukemia.

Childhood Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia

Childhood Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia

Acute lymphoblastic leukemia is a cancer of the white blood cells and one of the most common childhood cancers. Acute lymphoblastic leukemia is characterized by proliferation of lymphoblasts, leukocyte precursor cells. Blasts term refers to immature cells that are produced by the bone marrow. Because they are produced in excess they infiltrate the bone marrow and even penetrate  other organs in the body. It should be noted that acute lymphoblastic leukemia mainly affects children after the age of 2 years, with a peak incidence between 2 and 5 years. Recovery rates are high, about 80%.

Acute lymfoblastic leukemia symptoms are anemia, ecchymosis, petechiae, enlarged lymph nodes, fatigue, dyspnea, bone pain, fever, loss of appetite etc.. The causes are not clearly defined. It seems that leukemia is triggered by exposure to radiation or certain chemicals such as benzene but other factors are also implicated. Diagnosis of this disease arises with clinical signs and laboratory tests. Laboratory tests show abnormalities of blood cells: white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets. It should be noted that accurate diagnosis is given by bone marrow biopsy.

Now researchers have found that babies fed on formula longer have an increased risk of developing acute lymphoblastic leukemia. That  natural diet  provides adequate child development as well as increasing the immune defense is not a new thing. The risk of developing leukemia is because the child does not have a well-developed immune system. Formula does not provide immune factors that given by breast milk. Breast milk is considered the ideal food for the baby during the first 6 months of life. Besides the advantage that it provides all the nutrients necessary for growth and development, breast milk helps develop the immune system of the child.

The researchers pointed out the importance of natural diet after analyzing 284 controls and 142 children from the Texas Children’s Cancer Center and the National Children’s Study in Houston, San Antonio and Austin, Texas. It was found that children who were fed with solid food later made more frequent acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Moreover, they discovered a link between maternal smoking during pregnancy and childhood leukemia. Mothers of children who had been diagnosed with leukemia smoked more during pregnancy. The risk of leukemia increased by 16% for each month the baby is fed with formula. On the other hand, for each month of delayed introduction of solid foods the risk of leukemia increased by 14%.

For more information please visit  American Association For Cancer Research

Study Abstract

Tis abstract was presented at a press conference hosted by program chairperson Cory Abate-Shen, Ph.D., the Michael and Stella Chernow professor of urological oncology and associate director of the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center at Columbia University Medical Center, in the San Simeon AB Room on the fourth floor of the Hilton Anaheim at 7:30 a.m. PT on Wednesday, Oct. 17.

“Longer formula feeding and later age at introduction of solids increase the odds ratio of pediatric acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Jeremy Schraw1, Yong Q. Dong1, Michael E. Scheurer2, Steven Hirschfeld3, M Fatih Okcu2, Michele R. Forman1. 1University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX, 2Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX, 3National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Bethesda, MD.

Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is the most common form of childhood cancer. The literature suggests multiple points of interaction between infant feeding patterns and leukemogenesis whereby diet may influence normal development of the immune system and levels of insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) in the serum. Thus the intent of the current study is to examine the association between infant feeding practices and age at introduction of solids, on risk of ALL. Incident cases of infant and childhood ALL (N=142, ages 0 to 14 years) were approached and enrolled in a case-control study at Texas Children’s Cancer Center (TCCC). Controls (N=284) were recruited at TCCC and satellite clinics, as well as from participants in formative research for the National Children’s Study in Houston, San Antonio and Austin, Texas. Cases and controls were frequency matched on age, sex, race and ethnicity.

Differences in proportions of breast and bottle feeding between cases and controls were assessed by chi square test. Differences in the mean durations of feeding practices and age at introduction of solids were assessed by Student’s t test. The odds ratios (OR) of ALL were calculated using multiple logistic regression analysis in two models with the infant feeding group (independent variables) characterized as follows and a reference group of exclusively breastfed: in the first model, ever formula fed; in the second model, exclusively fed formula or fed both breast milk and formula. A third addressed the effects of durations of breast and formula feeding and age at the introduction of solid foods on the odds of ALL. Each model was calculated before and after adjustment for race, ethnicity, child’s age and maternal smoking during pregnancy. Cases started solid foods significantly later than controls. More mothers of cases than controls smoked during pregnancy. Compared to the controls, cases had longer duration of formula feeding, and upon analysis of the exclusive formula versus mixed breast and formula fed, mixed feeding groups had a longer duration of formula intake. In a preliminary multivariate model, each additional month of formula feeding was associated with a 16% (OR: 1.16, 95% CI 1.08-1.25) increased odds of ALL; and likewise each additional month of delaying the age at introduction of solids was also associated with a 14% (OR1.14, 95% CI: 1.04 -1.26) increased odds of ALL after adjustment for covariates.

In this ethnically diverse population, duration of formula feeding and age at introduction of solid foods were directly associated with increased odds of ALL. Further research needs to address the factors influencing duration of formula feeding and delay in introduction of solids. Our results highlight the role of energy balance in early life as critical contributors to risk for pediatric ALL.”