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Kids in Preschool Get Less Leukemia

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May 10, 2002 -- Nursery school and day care attendance may do more than just stimulate children's minds and social skills -- it may also reduce their risk of leukemia by stimulating their immune systems.

Researchers from several University of California locations identified all leukemia cases between 1995 and 1999 in children aged 1-14 in Northern California. They matched and compared these children with healthy peers of the same age, gender, ethnicity, and area of residence.

Compared with the 140 children with leukemia, the healthy children were more likely to have attended preschool or day care, to have begun earlier in life and remained longer, to have had more children in their center, and to have spent more total time in these group environments.

Their findings appear in the May 6 issue of the British Journal of Cancer.

"Our study contributes to the idea that isolation from common infections can increase the risk of childhood leukemia," says researcher Patricia Buffler, PhD, MPH, professor of epidemiology at the University of California at Berkeley, in a news release.

The theory is that without regular contact with other kids, these children's immune systems don't learn to recognize and fight disease-causing bugs, so their bodies may respond improperly to infection by producing cancerous white blood cells.

But putting your children in day care or preschool is not necessarily the only option. "As well as attending nursery, there are many way in the which the immune system can receive developmental stimulation, such as vaccination and exposure to siblings and friends," says Buffler.

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