HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Case Western Reserve University School of Law

Friday, April 22, 2005

Playgroups and Childhood Leukemia

Reuters reports on a recent set of studies showing that very young children who are exposed to other children (i.e., carriers of common illnesses and infections) in social settings are less likely to develop childhood Leukemia.  The report states,

Sending very young children to daycare centers and playgroups could help protect them from childhood leukemia, researchers said on Friday.

Some degree of exposure to common illnesses early on is important for the immune system, they agreed.

Unknown infections, along with a genetic default that occurs before birth, are the most likely cause of childhood leukemia, they added in a study.

“Early exposure to infections through social contact seems to be protective against the disease,” Professor Mel Greaves, of the Institute of Cancer Research in London, told a news conference. . . .

Scientists have been puzzled by the causes of childhood leukemia since it was first diagnosed. But the 15-year United Kingdom Childhood Cancer Study, which involved more than 13,000 children including nearly 2,000 with leukemia, suggests that a double whammy -- the genetic default and the timing or pattern of infection early in life are critical. “The crucial second event is some kind of infection,” said Greaves.

In a separate study to be published online by the British Medical Journal on Friday, scientists found that children who attend day care center or playgroups during the first few months of their life are less likely to develop leukemia.

This is good news.  I am especially excited since my son has been sick (nothing horrible, just run of the mill ear infections and colds) practically this entire year and now I know that there was potentially a silver lining to this series of childhood illnesses.  Selfishly, however, I wonder if there is any benefit to the parent of said child who also tends to be exposed to the infection. [bm]

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