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Birth Weights Linked to Leukemia Risk

July 3, 2009

Researchers have reported more evidence that both low and high birth weights may be linked to a risk of leukemia.

Writing in the International Journal of Cancer, researchers noted that high birth weight could be linked to an increased risk of leukemia and acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). Meanwhile both high and low birth weight may be linked to a higher incidence of acute myeloid leukemia (AML).

“There is a growing body of evidence indicating that childhood leukemia is initiated in utero,” said Dr. Robert W. Caughey of the Harvard School of Public Health and Dr. Karin B. Michels of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston.

Caughey and Michels gathered data from 32 studies to determine the relation between birth weights and overall childhood leukemia as well as ALL and AML.

The 32 studies involved 16,501 cases of overall leukemia, 10,974 cases of ALL, and 1832 cases of AML.

They found that a higher birth weight was linked to a 35 percent increase in risk of leukemia as well as a 23 percent increased risk of ALL and a 40 percent risk of AML.

The overall risk of leukemia increased by 1.18 with every 1000 gram birth weight increase, researchers told Reuters on Thursday.

“Our study supports the notion that childhood leukemia is likely to be initiated in utero,” Michels said in an email interview with Reuters Health.

“Birth weight is a marker for events during pregnancy that may have affected the risk for leukemia in the offspring.”

“It will be important to investigate which factors may operate in utero that affect leukemia risk,” Michels said.

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