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Breastfeeding Tied to Lower Odds of Childhood Leukemia

One more potential benefit for breastfed babies, research suggests

TUESDAY, June 2, 2015 (HealthDay News) — Breastfeeding is associated with a reduced risk of childhood leukemia compared to the risk for children who were never breastfed, according to research published online June 1 in JAMA Pediatrics.

To see if there was any connection between breastfeeding and a lower risk of leukemia, the study authors reviewed 18 studies that included 10,292 children with leukemia and 17,517 healthy children. The researchers also performed a separate analysis of 15 studies to see if having been breastfed led to a benefit over never having been breastfed. This second analysis didn’t include three of the studies from the original group because they didn’t have data on infants who had never been breastfed. The researchers also noted that the definition of “never breastfed” varied among the studies.

After reviewing all 18 studies, the researchers found that breastfeeding for six months or longer was associated with a 19 percent lower risk for childhood leukemia, compared with no or shorter breastfeeding. The second review of 15 studies indicated that children who were ever breastfed (compared with never breastfed) had an 11 percent lower risk for childhood leukemia.

“Breastfeeding is a highly accessible and low-cost preventive public health measure that has been found in numerous studies to be associated not only with lower risk for childhood leukemia but also with lower risk for sudden infant death syndrome, gastrointestinal infection, ear infection, type 2 diabetes, and obesity later in life,” lead author, Efrat Amitay, Ph.D., M.P.H., of the School of Public Health at the University of Haifa in Israel, told HealthDay. “There is, therefore, a distinct public benefit in breastfeeding and it should be encouraged and facilitated widely.”

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