Research from a leading scientist suggests that there is a link between the most common childhood leukemia and a lack of infections during infancy.
Doctors often talk informally about the importance of contact with “healthy germs”, but the paper published in Nature Reviews Cancer has found a significant impact on the likelihood of developing acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) for children who have not experienced normal childhood illnesses which help to build immunity. The paper, based on three decades of research, was written by Professor Mal Greaves of London’s Institute of Cancer Research.
Professor Greaves emphasized that parents were not being held responsible for their children’s illness, because other factors played a part too. ALL only occurs in children with genetic mutations, which happen randomly. There is nothing can parents can do to influence whether their children carry these mutations or not.
However, the general incidence of leukemia can be reduced by allowing children to have social contact with their peers from a very young age. This is even more important for children without older siblings. Of course, it can be distressing for parents when their baby is snuffling and complaining, but minor colds and fevers are an essential part of a child’s development, strengthening their ability to resist more serious illnesses later on.