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Radiat Prot Dosimetry. 2008;132(2):259-66. doi: 10.1093/rpd/ncn271. Epub 2008 Oct 21.

Exposure to infections through day-care attendance and risk of childhood leukaemia.

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  • 1School of Public Health, University of California, Berkeley, 2150 Shattuck Avenue, Suite 500, Berkeley, CA 94704, USA. kurayama@berkeley.edu


There is growing evidence supporting a role for infections in the aetiology of childhood leukaemia. Hypotheses proposed by both Greaves and Kinlen describe childhood leukaemia to be a rare response to one or more common infections acquired through personal contacts. Previous epidemiological studies have used day-care attendance as an indicator of the increased likelihood of early and frequent exposure to infections. It is well-documented that in developed countries, exposures to common infections occur more frequently in this type of setting. Within the Northern California Childhood Leukaemia Study, the role of social contact has been assessed and a unique 'child-hours' summary measure incorporating information on the number of months attending a day-care, mean hours per week at this day-care and the number of children in the day-care setting was constructed. In this review, the previously reported day-care results have been described, showing that in non-Hispanic White children, children in the highest category of total child-hours of exposure had a reduced risk of acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL), particularly common B-cell precursor ALL (c-ALL), compared with children without such exposures, with evidence of a dose-response effect. In addition, a literature review of relevant studies has been conducted, examining the relationship between day-care attendance and risk of childhood ALL. Overall, the 14 studies identified provided consistent support for this hypothesis, with the majority of studies reporting some evidence of a reduced risk. A meta-analysis is currently underway, which will provide a quantitative evaluation of the overall consistency and strength of the association between day-care attendance or social contact and risk of childhood ALL.

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