Day care stint said to cut risk of child leukemia

September 24, 1993|By New York Times News Service

Children who attended a day care center for at least three months before the age of 2 were found to have a lower risk of developing childhood leukemia than children who were not placed in such an environment, a study to be reported tomorrow in the British Medical Journal says.

In the study of 136 children with childhood leukemia and a slightly larger number of healthy children, conducted in Greece, children who attended a day care center before the age of 2 had a 70 percent lower risk for childhood leukemia than children who had never been in day care. Children who had been in day care at any age had a 30 percent lower risk. The statistical association was "startlingly strong," the authors of the study said.

The study was conducted by Dr. Eleni Petridou of Athens and Dr. Dimitrios Trichopoulos, who heads the department of epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health.

Dr. Trichopoulos's latest findings strengthen a thesis advanced in recent years by scientists in England and Scotland that children exposed to an as yet undetected virus or other infectious agent very early in life may gain immunity to childhood leukemia. Childhood leukemia is the most common cancer among children under the age of 15.

The thesis holds that the timing of infection is a critical determinant of whether a child will develop leukemia.

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