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article imageCould Play Groups Help Protect Young Children From The Most Common Childhood Cancer?

By KJ Mullins     Apr 28, 2008 in Health
Play groups may spare children the risk of acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, the most common form of childhood leukaemia by thirty percent according to a University of California, Berkeley study.
The researchers reviewed 14 studies that involved almost 20,000 children. 6,000 of those child later developed acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL).
One in every 2,000 children in the industrial world will develop ALL. The disease occurs most often in the youngest of the population, between the ages of two and five.
Scientists believe that it takes two steps for the disease to be triggered. The first is a genetic mutation that happens during pregnancy and then a second trigger during childhood. The second trigger can be as simple as an infection.
While scientists believe that an infection triggers the disease they also believe that some common infections may actually help the immune system be primed to fight off leukaemia. The infections that young children encounter when exposed to each other from settings like daycare and play groups may protect the young from other infections that would trigger the blood cancer.
Lead researcher Professor Patricia Buffler said: "Combining the results from these studies together provided us with more confidence that the protective effect is real."
The Berkeley team discovered this startling protective effect after studying 12 other studies.
The children that came from larger families though seem to not have as much protective from these early infections as children from smaller families.
Edward Copisarow, of the charity Children with Leukaemia, said: "These findings are important because this is the first time the results of all the relevant studies have been put together and it clearly shows that there is an effect here.
"This is the kind of research that brings us a step closer to understanding the causes of this complex disease and how we can prevent it."
This may give parents an additional reason to have their young children interacting with other kids.
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