Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin suggest that infants may be at an increased risk of developing ALL (Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia) when they are fed formula for longer periods of time, causing a delay in solid food administration.
The study results suggest that the risk for developing ALL increased by 16 percent for every month the infant was administered formula feeding. This in turn prolonged the administration of solid food feeding and for each month that this was delayed, the risk of developing ALL increased by 14 percent. The team also noted that there did not appear to be an association between breastfeeding and a diagnosis of ALL.
"For every month that a child was fed formula, taking into account other feeding practices, we found that the risk for this type of cancer was higher," said Jeremy Schraw, study lead and nutritional science graduate student at the University of Texas at Austin. He goes on to say that "If a baby is fed only formula, he or she will not be getting any immune factors from the mother, which could be leading to this greater risk."
Schraw and his team examined a control group of 284 children; 142 of them were examined for feeding patterns and who were also being treated for ALL from the Texas Children's Cancer Center and the National Children's Study in Houston; San Antonio; and Austin, Texas.
When compared to the control group, children who were diagnosed with ALL had started solid food feeding significantly later, but also, more of their mothers smoked during pregnancy and a there was a prolonged duration of formula feeding.
"Children being given solid foods later may be receiving formula longer," says Schraw.
I'm glad to see that nutrition researchers have made progress in discovering what could be a contributing factor for children developing ALL, but the cause-and-effect relationship between prolonged formula feeding and children developing ALL is still not clear. Smoking during pregnancy may also be a factor, along with the lack of immunity passed on from the mother's breast milk.
We may need to also investigate what factors are influencing the parents' decision to prolong formula feeding and delay solid food administration.
For those of you who treat the pediatric population, do you find prolonged formula feeding common practice among your ALL patients?