The incidence of childhood leukaemia in Britain increased dramatically during the twentieth century. The increase has mainly affected the under-five age group, in whom the risk increased by more than 50 per cent during the second half of the century alone.
Although the causes of leukaemia in children are poorly understood, modern environmental and lifestyle factors are thought to play a major role in the rising incidence. If this is the case, it should be possible to take preventive measures. But first we need to identify the factors responsible.
This is the motivation behind the conference Childhood leukaemia: incidence, causal mechanisms and prevention which is being hosted by CHILDREN with LEUKAEMIA, Britain's leading charity devoted to the conquest of the disease.
Professor Moolky Nagabhushan of the Loyola University Medical Centre, Chicago will present evidence that the low incidence of leukaemia in Asia is due in part to the protective effect of turmeric, a spice used widely in Asian cooking. "Some of the known risk factors that contribute to the high incidence of childhood leukaemia are the interaction of many lifestyle and environmental factors," says Nagabhusan. "These include prenatal or postnatal exposure to radiation, benzene, environmental pollutants and alkylating chemotherapeutic drugs. Our studies show that turmeric - and its colouring principle, curcumin - in the diet mitigate the effects of some of these risk factors."
In a long-running series of studies, Nagabhusan has shown that turmeric has the potential to protect against leukaemia in a variety of ways it can inhibit the mutagenicity of cigarette smoke polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, radiation induced