Longer Formula Feeding and Later Introduction of Solids May Increase Risk of Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) in Children

Oct. 17, 2012

AUSTIN, Texas — A research team in the Department of Nutritional Sciences at The University of Texas at Austin has found that infant feeding patterns may increase the risk of a diagnosis of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL).

In a study currently awaiting peer review, researchers found that the risk for developing ALL increased by 16 percent for every month of formula feeding. In addition, for each month the introduction of solid foods was delayed, the risk increased by 14 percent. The researchers found no measurable association between breastfeeding and risk of ALL diagnosis.

The study, led by nutritional sciences graduate student Jeremy Schraw working closely with nutritional sciences faculty member Dr. Michele Forman, in collaboration with colleagues from Baylor College of Medicine, retrospectively examined infant feeding patterns in a group of 142 children who are being treated for ALL and a control group of 284 children

Compared with controls, children diagnosed with ALL started solid foods significantly later, more of their mothers smoked during pregnancy and they had a longer duration of formula feeding. The data for the study did not include the ages of infants consuming formula, only duration of formula feeding.

Researchers found that the risk for developing ALL increased by 16 percent for every month of formula feeding. In addition, for each month the introduction of solid foods was delayed, the risk increased by 14 percent.

“One explanation for this co-risk may be that it’s the same effect being picked up twice,” said Schraw. “Children being given solid foods later may be receiving formula longer.

Although ALL is the most common form of childhood cancer, it is a relatively rare disease in the general population.

Jeremy Schraw will be presenting his findings at the American Association of Cancer Research (AACR) International Conference on Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research.

For more information, contact: Meghan Mullaney, Biomedical Engineering, Cockrell School of Engineering College of Engineering, 512 471 4601; Jeremy Moore, Assistant Director, Science Communications, American Association of Cancer Research (AACR), jeremy.moore@aacr.org

4 Comments to "Longer Formula Feeding and Later Introduction of Solids May Increase Risk of Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) in Children"

1.  Luis said on Oct. 20, 2012

As a parent of two young children and husband to a working mother, I know how difficult it is to keep working and keep breastfeeding. As the dad/husband, we can help in so many ways to facilitate the continuation of breastfeeding, by helping with other chores around the house. I hope that anyone who reads this article and is remotely interested in having healthy kids, should strive to breastfeed as long as possible, or contribute to their spouse's ability to do so.

2.  lauren bernick said on Oct. 22, 2012

I think you are researching the wrong problem. It's what is IN THE FORMULA, not the length. Infant formula contains genetically modified organisms (GMOs) that it did not have twenty years ago. Of course, the longer you expose a baby to GMOs, the greater the risk.

3.  Andrea Zabcik said on Oct. 23, 2012

This article is truly eye opening. I always thought formula was developed to be as close to breast milk as possible, but apparently, there is a significant difference. I am glad that I was able to breastfeed my daughter as long as possible, so that she only received a few months of formula. My husband, who stayed home with our daughter after my maternity leave ended was very supportive and helpful.
I want to give kudos to Luis for his comment above. Dads can do so much to help their wives stay on track with breastfeeding. He hit the nail on the head. :)

4.  Lauren Proctor said on Nov. 5, 2012

I have a 3 month old and I tried everything I could to breastfeed, I did it for 6 weeks but the reality is I never had more than an ounce of milk at a time, about every 12 hours. I had to go to formula. These "findings" and articles just make me feel bad about it all.