A new study finds that new mothers can significantly reduce the chances that their child will develop leukemia by feeding them breast milk.
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The study, which was carried out by researchers at the University of Haifa and the Israel Center for Disease Control, involved an examination of data from 18 reports delving into the links between breast feeding and leukemia. That data involved more than 10,000 children and teenagers diagnosed with leukemia, while another 17,500 or so kids were chosen to act as a control set.
In the end, the researchers found that children who were breast fed for a period of at least six months were 19-percent less likely to develop leukemia than kids who nursed from a bottle or were breast fed for less than six months.
“14%-percent to 19-percent of all childhood leukemia cases may be prevented by breastfeeding for 6 months or more,” the researchers concluded in their report, which has since been published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.
There’s no denying the importance of this finding. Leukemia is a mounting threat in the United States, where rates have grown by 0.7-percent each year since the mid-1970s. That has made leukemia–which leads to a patient’s bone marrow producing an abundance of abnormal blood cells–the second-most common cause of death among children under age 15 and the most common type of cancer among children. Overall, the various types of leukemia account for roughly 30-percent (almost one-third) of all childhood cancers.