A recent study has been released that showed a relationship between obesity while pregnant and childhood leukemia.
According to new research from the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health and UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, children who are born to women who are obese have a higher chance of developing leukemia. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines obesity as having a BMI of 40 or higher. The study shows that children born to women who were defined as obese have a 57% higher chance of developing leukemia before the age of five compared to other kids. As the mother's BMI decreases so does the chance of the child developing leukemia. The study follows almost two million births in Pennsylvania between 2003 and 2016. In their analysis, they adjusted for all the known factors that would be associated with an increased risk of childhood cancer and leukemia. Therefore, those factors did not impact the data. Many people criticize the use of BMI as the definition of whether or not somebody is overweight or obese. However, that is the standard definition according to the World Health Organization.
"Our intent isn't to shame women or make them feel guilty," said lead author Shaina Stacy, a PhD postdoctoral scholar at Pitt and UPMC. "But instead, we're hoping that these findings point to one more reason for weight loss." The researchers were certainly not trying to make women feel guilty for their weight or feel like there is another piece of research trying to shame them. Their main purpose was to deliver the facts about their findings. These findings are especially important because there aren't many known preventable risk factors for childhood cancer.
Hopefully, the findings can help encourage mother's to get to a healthier BMI to help lower the risks of their child developing leukemia in early childhood. Although there is no absolute reason as to why the mother's weight increases the children's chances of getting leukemia, Stacy has some theories. "We can speculate that it could have something to do with disruptions in insulin levels in the mother's body during fetal development, or that the mother's DNA expression could be altered in some way and passed to her offspring," Stacy said. "[But] we would need additional studies to glean why that might be the case."
If mothers are interested in helping their child avoid having childhood leukemia than it might be in their best interest to lower their BMI. This study wasn't trying to guilt women into losing weight, but it is important that every mother to know that there is a relationship between obesity and childhood leukemia.