Breastfeeding for six months or longer has been associated with a lower risk of childhood leukaemia in a new Israeli study, published online by JAMA Pediatrics.
Efrat L. Amitay, and Lital Keinan-Boker of the University of Haifa, Israel, reviewed the evidence in 18 studies on the association between breastfeeding and childhood leukaemia and found breastfeeding for six months or longer was associated with a 19% lower risk compared with no breastfeeding or breastfeeding for a shorter period of time.
A separate analysis of 15 studies found that ever being breastfed compared with never being breastfed was associated with an 11% lower risk of childhood leukaemia.
Leukaemia accounts for about 30% of all childhood cancers, but scientists don’t know why.
The study suggests several biological mechanisms of breast milk may explain their results, including that breast milk contains many immunologically active components and anti-inflammatory defence mechanisms that influence the development of an infant’s immune system.
Bill Condie is a science journalist based in Adelaide, Australia.
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