-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas
WEDNESDAY, Oct. 17 (HealthDay News) -- When the introduction to
solid foods is delayed and babies are fed formula for a prolonged
period of time, it may place them at increased risk for pediatric
acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), a new study suggests.
But the study, which is considered preliminary, only found an
association between prolonged bottle feeding and ALL; it did not
prove a cause-and-effect relationship.
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, ALL is a
fast-growing cancer of white blood cells called lymphocytes. It is
also the most common acute childhood leukemia, typically affecting
children between the ages of 3 and 7.
In the new study, researchers from the University of Texas at
Austin found that children's risk for this cancer seemed to
increase the longer they were fed formula and not solid foods. They
said the benefits that breast milk has on babies' developing immune
systems may help explain their findings.
The study was scheduled to be presented Wednesday at the annual
cancer prevention conference of the American Association for Cancer
Research (AACR) in Anaheim, Calif.
"For every month that a child was fed formula, taking into account other feeding practices, we found that the risk for this type of cancer was higher," explained Jeremy Schraw, a graduate student at The University of Texas at Austin in an AACR news release. "If a baby is fed only formula, he or she will not be getting any immune factors from the mother, which could be leading to this greater risk."
In conducting the study, the researchers surveyed 142 ethnically
diverse children with ALL and 284 similar children who did not have
this disease. They found the children diagnosed with ALL began
eating solid foods much later than those who did not have this form
of cancer. A greater number of children with ALL were also fed
formula for a prolonged period of time and had mothers who smoked
during their pregnancy, the study said.
The study showed that for each additional month of formula
feeding, the children's risk of cancer increased by 16 percent.
Research presented at medical meetings is considered preliminary
until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more information on
childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
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