The University of Haifa, Irael, has released a systematic review and meta analysis study investigating the impact of breastfeeding and the subsequent leukemia risk. Leukemia is severe form of childhood cancer, defined as cancer of the bone marrow, and approximately 175,000 leukemia cases are diagnosed in children under the age of 15 years on an annual basis.
The review study investigated the evidence presented in 18 studies and determined that breastfeeding for 6 months or longer was linked to a 19% decreased risk of leukemia compared with no breastfeeding or breastfeeding for a shorter period. Breastfeeding confers a protective benefit regardless of duration as children who were breastfed for any duration had an 11% lower risk for childhood leukemia, compared with children who were never breastfed.
The researchers attribute the protective health benefit to the gut and beneficial bacteria. Breast milk strengthens the immune system as it contains assorted immunologically active components and anti-inflammatory defense mechanisms.
The researchers recommend that breastfeeding should be part of a public health message and that health care professionals should be taught the potential health benefits of breastfeeding and given tools to assist mothers with breastfeeding, whether themselves or with referrals to others who can help.
Breastfeeding and childhood leukemia incidence a meta-analysis and systematic review, Efrat L. Amitay et al., JAMA Pediatrics, doi: 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2015.1025, published online 1 June 2015, abstract.