U.S. researchers said that, sending children to day-care centers at an early age could protect them against leukemia.
Scientists found out that repeated childhood infections later on can make the immune system overreact, putting the areas of DNA that code for these gene-editing proteins into overdrive and increasing unregulated mutations that can then trigger the leukemia. Exposing children to early, minor ailments primes their immune system and makes them less likely to overreact later on.
Their analysis presented at a conference in London showed that children who attended daycare or playgroups have a 30% lower risk of developing the most common form of childhood leukemia compared to those who do not.
And the earlier the social interaction the better because the review of 14 studies showed children who started daycare at age 1 or 2 had the most protection, said Patricia Buffler, a cancer epidemiologist at the University of California, Berkeley.
What we found was for across all the studies there was a level of protection in 12 of them and no protection seen in two. No study showed an increased risk. They either showed protection or no effect,” said Buffler.
In addition, Buffler also stated that, the study did not identify how social contact may guard against leukemia but it adds to the evidence that children exposed to infections early in life somehow gain protection against the rare disease.
Scientists believe two things must happen for most types of childhood cancer. The first is some kind of genetic mutation that a child is born with followed by a trigger in childhood such as an infection that results in the disease, she added.
This is just more evidence pointing to the role that some type of infection early in life could stimulate the immune system.”
The researchers reviewed 14 published studies of nearly 20,000 children worldwide, about a third of whom had acute lymphoblastic leukemia. This is the most common form of the disease and accounts for about 80 percent of all childhood leukemias which affects about 20 to 30 children out of every million.
The studies ( in which parents were asked about day care and playgroup attendance) varied when it came to the timing, duration and to the extent of social interaction with other children. However, Buffler said that, the overall results are clear and could help other researchers gain a better understanding of the disease that typically strikes children before age 5.
These are more clues to pursue to understand how to prevent childhood leukemia. Nobody before had pulled together all the work reported to date.”