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New study aims to reduce risk of childhood leukemia
Date:1/25/2009

A study led by Dr Marcus Cooke at the University of Leicester and funded by World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) UK is looking at whether consuming caffeine during pregnancy might affect the unborn baby's risk of developing leukaemia in childhood.

Dr Cooke sees the study as a unique opportunity to determine the sources of chromosomal alterations during pregnancy, with the ultimate aim of reducing the risk of childhood leukaemias.

Leukaemia is a cancer of the bone marrow and white blood cells. It can affect people of all ages and around 7,000 cases are diagnosed each year in the UK. While it is the most common type of childhood cancer, accounting for 35 per cent of cases, it is still rare. Only 1 in 10 of leukaemia patients are children, accounting for 500 child diagnoses a year in the UK.

"We want to find out whether consuming caffeine could lead to the sort of DNA changes in the baby that are linked to risk of leukaemia," said Dr Cooke. "This is an important area of research because it is vital that mothers are given the best advice possible."

While childhood leukaemia could be initiated by DNA alterations in the unborn child, it is thought that leukaemia would only develop if there was another secondary trigger. There is currently no single proven cause of childhood leukaemia, though exposure to radiation and/or a rare response to a common infection are thought likely to play a part.

Although there are currently no convincing links between caffeine and cancer risks, previous studies have found a link between alterations to DNA, which are sometimes found in newborn babies, to an increased risk of leukaemia. Caffeine has been shown to cause these kinds of changes to DNA.

Scientists know caffeine can pass back and forth across the placenta, meaning the unborn baby will come in contact with caffeine consumed by the mother. Dr Cooke and his team want to find out what impact this can have on the unborn baby. '/>"/>

Contact: Dr. Marcus Cooke
msc5@leicester.ac.uk
44-011-625-25825
University of Leicester
Source:Eurekalert

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