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New research suggests link between maternal diet and childhood leukemia risk

xification of certain harmful compounds.

Within the fruit and vegetable food groups, certain foods - including carrots, string beans and cantaloupe - stood out as having stronger links to lower childhood leukemia risk. The researchers point to the benefits of nutrients, such as carotenoids, in those foods as potential protective factors. National guidelines recommend that people eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables every day, and two to three servings of foods from the protein group.

"Fetal exposure to nutritional factors has a lot to do with what mom eats," said Christopher Jensen, a nutritional epidemiologist at U.C. Berkeley and lead author of the paper. "These findings show how vital it is that women hoping to get pregnant, as well as expectant moms, understand that critical nutrients in vegetables, fruit and foods containing protein, such as meat, fish, beans and nuts, may protect the health of their unborn children."

The few studies that have been conducted on maternal diet and childhood cancer risk looked only at specific foods or supplements, and results have been mixed. This study is the first attempt to capture a woman's overall dietary pattern - using a 76-food-item questionnaire - and its relationship to the development of leukemia in a child. Researchers also studied the use of vitamin supplements, but did not find a statistically significant link to childhood leukemia risk.

A growing number of scientists believe that genetic changes linked to cancer later in life begin in the womb. "It goes back to the old saying to expectant mothers, 'You're eating for two,'" said co-author Patricia Buffler, U.C. Berkeley professor of epidemiology and head of the federally funded Northern California Childhood Leukemia Study. "We're starting to see the importance of the prenatal environment, since the events that may lead to leukemia are possibly initiated in utero. Leukemia is a very complex dis
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Contact: John Peterson
peterso4@niehs.nih.gov
919-541-7860
NIH/National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
8-Sep-2004


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