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Reproductive & Child Health News

Breastfeeding May Lower Risk for Leukemia in Children

A recent study led by researchers at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis appears to support current recommendations by the American Academy of Pediatrics that encourage women to breastfeed their newborns for at the least the first year of life. Smaller studies have suggested that breastfeeding might lower a child's risk for developing childhood Hodgkin's disease and lymphoma, but this larger study is the first to identify a statistically significant connection between breastfeeding and leukemia.

Researchers conducted telephone interviews with 2,200 mothers of children between the ages of one and 17 who had been diagnosed with leukemia to obtain information about whether they had breastfed or formula fed and for how long. They then interviewed approximately the same number of mothers of similar age, race, and geographic location with healthy children, asking them the same information.

They found that babies who had been breastfed for at least one month had a 21 percent lower risk of developing leukemia than formula-fed infants; and the risk for leukemia decreased to about 30 percent in babies who were breastfeed for at least six months. According to this study, babies who were primarily breastfed for any amount of time had their risk for leukemia decreased, and that risk decreased further the longer they were breastfed during the first year.

These researchers believe additional research is needed, but this study reinforces prior research regarding the benefits of breastfeeding infants.

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