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Research Reveals Childhood Obesity Promotes Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL)

Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) is a type of cancer which targets the white blood cells. These cells are primarily responsible for protecting our body from bacteria and viruses.

It is the most common form of childhood blood cancer cases. It affects children between the ages 0-19 years, with the high risk group being 2-5 years olds.

Approximately 1 in 50,000 patients get affected with this disease every year in the United States with the males at a slightly  higher risk than females. The over all cure rate of this disease in children is nearly 80 percent.

Childhood obesity in the recent times has become a serious matter of concern for the health care professionals. 20 percent of children in this country are obese.

There are a wide range of health complications associated with this physical disorder. But very few can imagine that it can be even remotely related to the most common form of blood cancer.

Unfortunately, researchers at the Saban Research Institute of Children’s Hospital, Los Angeles have discovered the fact that obesity directly speeds up the progress of Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) in children. Results of their findings will be published in Cancer Prevention Research journal, on October 5, 2010.

The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the National Cancer Institute, and the Children’s Cancer Research Fund (a non-profit organization based in California) funded the study.

Knowledge Gained from the Research:

  • The researchers wanted to understand whether obesity played any role in the progression of childhood blood cancer.
  • As a part of their study, they fed a high-fat diet to induce obesity in experimental mice suffering from ALL.
  • The study found that the risk of ALL was increased by obesity particularly with the growing age of the mice.
  • This observation pattern was similar to that of smoking exposure in lung cancer and high estrogen level exposure in breast cancer.
  • The high risk of aged mice developing this condition was found to be consistent with other obesity-related complications like heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis.

The researchers believe that the fat cells produce certain chemicals in the body which promote the growth and rapid division of blood cancer cells.

Significance of the Research: Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) is the most common type of childhood cancer and obesity in children has reached unprecedented levels in recent times. Understanding the nexus between these two dreadful health complications in children is imperative for ensuring timely counter measures in the future.

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