Breastfeeding reduces the risk of leukemia in children and teens, according to a recently published study in the journal JAMA Pediatrics which found a 19 percent lower risk of leukemia, the most common form of childhood cancer, in children who were breastfed for at least six months in comparison to those who were breastfed for a less than six months or not at all.
Scientists have yet to figure out exactly how breast milk helps fend off leukemia, but one occurring hypothesis is that the antibodies found only in breast milk help strengthen the immune systems of infants. According to ABC Science, the researchers behind the study believe that its findings suggest breast milk contains “many immunologically active components and anti-inflammatory mechanisms that influence the development of an infant’s immune system.” Similarly, children who are exposed to other types of infections via older siblings or children at daycare are also less likely to get leukemia, according to Mel Greaves, director of the Centre for Evolution and Cancer at the Institute of Cancer Research in London.
Leukemia is the most common type of childhood cancer and the second highest cause of death among children. Scientists have not yet discovered the cause of childhood leukemia or why the rate of it is increasing at an annual rate of 0.9 percent. The study, led by Dr. Efrat Amitay and Dr. Lital Keinan-Boker of the University of Haifa’s School of Public Health in Israel, sheds some light on and opens the doors for further research on the mechanisms of childhood leukemia. The researchers analyzed data collected from studies conducted between 1964 and 2014 which included over 17,000 control individuals and over 10,000 cases of Leukemia. Their analysis found associations between leukemia and children who were breastfed for less than six months and those who were not breastfed at all.
Dr. Amitay was quoted by TIME in a report as having said that breast milk, which recent animal studies have found to contain stem cells, might be similar to embryonic stem cells in that they’re able to change inside of an infant’s body and perform where needed, only they’re “more accessible and less controversial than embryonic stem cells”.
When you talk about breast milk, it’s more accessible and less controversial than embryonic stem cells (…) It’s still all very, very at the beginning, but I think it’s very exciting, too.
While researchers have long been aware of the positive effects of breast milk on infant development, the results of the study and others like it continue to add to health professionals’ inclination to encourage breastfeeding.
According to the study’s findings, breast milk — which is plentiful in new mothers — prevents 14 to 19 percent of childhood leukemia cases.
In other cancer related coverage here at Immortal News, a couple of immunotherapy drugs have been successfully used in conjunction with one another to stop the progression of melanoma, a deadly skin cancer. One of the drugs, by itself, has also shown promise in treating lung cancer— something that Cuba has reportedly developed a vaccine for.
What are your thoughts on breastfeeding?