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Fruits May Protect Children from Leukemia

Children who ate oranges and bananas or drank orange juice most days of the week before age 2 were significantly less likely than other children to be diagnosed with leukemia before age 14, according to research released this month. Previous research has suggested that diet may influence the risk of certain cancers, including colorectal, prostate, lung and breast cancers.

Before age 15, more children become sick from leukemia than from any other type of cancer. But until now, the effect of diet on the childhood risk of this cancer was largely unknown.

University of California medical investigators interviewed the mothers of 328 children diagnosed with leukemia and the same number of cancer-free kids. Mothers reported what children ate before age 2.

The researchers found that children who ate oranges or bananas 4-6 times per week were around half as likely to develop leukemia before age 14. Drinking orange juice 4-6 times per week reduced leukemia risk by a comparable amount.

In contrast, cured meats such as lunch meats and hot dogs contain substances that can become carcinogenic in the stomach. Research in rats suggests that eating these meats in pregnancy may increase the risk of brain tumors in offspring.

However, in this report, eating hot dogs or lunch meats had no influence on leukemia, perhaps because vitamin C, along with other vitamins and nutrients contained in fruit, protect the body from the damage the meats can cause, according to the researchers.

This study illustrates the critical importance of feeding your child plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit. Do not feed your child "convenience foods" such as cured meats, hot dogs, French fries, etc. Leukemia is only one of many health risks you can reduce in your child with a healthy diet.

Source: American Journal of Epidemiology, December 2004