A new study is suggesting that childhood leukemia could be prevented. The study claims that by keeping babies "too clean" is actually harming them more than helping them.
Infants who are not exposed to bacteria within their first year are at risk of developing childhood leukemia after they catch their first flu or cold. The new findings were released by Institute of Cancer Research London.
Being Too Clean Is Dangerous?
According to these new findings, infections such as flu can lead to a baby developing acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). The new study suggests that by exposing babies to other infants is actually healthier for them rather than keeping them indoors and in a very clean environment because their immune systems have not been properly "primed."
ALL is a rare disease that has affected one in 2,000 children in the UK each year and is more common in children from affluent backgrounds. The authors of the study collected research from dozens of populations that showed a jump in numbers of children developing a form of blood cancer in wealthier countries but not in the poorer ones.
The lead author of the study, Professor Mel Greaves, who is also one of the world's leading leukemia biologists, collected more than 30 years of research to come to this new theory. Greaves stated that with this new information, he intends on working on a new treatment to help combat this cancer.
Professor Greaves stated in a paper published by the Nature Reviews Cancer the two ways ALL can be developed. Greaves elaborated that a genetic mutation has to occur within the womb that is followed by another genetic change that is triggered from exposure to one of the common infections.
How Can It Be Prevented?
The authors of the study also noted four protective factors for children who have ALL: being born vaginally, being breast-fed, attending day cares, and socializing with other children before they turned one.
Greaves also stated that the problem isn't the infection but the "lack" of it. The professor also stated that parents are not to blame for any child developing this disease but did urge parents to let their children have contact with other children while they are still developing.
"Parents are in no way to blame as they have being doing nothing different to other parents. But we should stop worrying about infection so much and encourage social interactions. They pick up priming infections from other children by sharing toys and so on," Greaves stated.