Study: Possible link between pre-labor c-sections, childhood leukemia

By Marilyn Malara  |  Feb. 27, 2016 at 3:57 PM
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MINNEAPOLIS, Feb. 27 (UPI) -- A possible link exists between pre-labor cesarean delivery and childhood leukemia, researchers from the Masonic Cancer Center and University of Minnesota said.

In a study published online for The Lancet Haematology journal, scientists presented their findings of an analysis of 13 studies with data from the Childhood Leukemia International Consortium.

Using a total of 33,571 participants, including 8,655 cases of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), researchers found no link between emergency c-sections and the type of cancer in question or acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Instead, they observed a 23 percent increase of ALL in those born through pre-labor c-sections.

Researchers suspect an increase in ALL may be due to improperly adapted immune systems at birth.

"The most plausible explanation for the association between ALL and pre-labor cesarean delivery is in the cortisol, or stress-related, mechanism," said co-author Erin Marcotte. "Because ALL is not associated with all cesarean deliveries, it seems less likely the microbiota colonization is a significant factor in this phenomenon. We believe further investigation into this cortisol mechanism link is warranted due to these findings."

"This association deserves a closer look to better determine what's behind the link," co-author Logan Spector said. "Cortisol exposure is plausible since similar compounds are used to treat ALL. We also know that some are born with cells that are on the path to becoming leukemia. Thus, our working hypothesis is that cortisol exposure at birth may eliminate these pre-leukemic cells.

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