LONDON (CBS Local) – A groundbreaking study into what triggers cancer has found that children who are “too hygienic” and are kept away from other kids were at greater risk for developing leukemia.

The Details:

  • A cancer study has found that children living in ultra-clean environments have higher rates of leukemia
  • Professor Mel Greaves says children need to have their immune system “primed” by exposure to various germs
  • Greaves found that children with siblings or who were breastfed had lower rates of the disease

Professor Mel Greaves from the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) in London has released new research stating that a child’s immune system needs to be exposed to various germs and infections in order to “prime” it for battling more serious diseases.

“The research strongly suggests that ALL (acute lymphoblastic leukemia) has a clear biological cause, and is triggered by a variety of infections in predisposed children whose immune systems have not been properly primed,” Prof. Greaves said in a May 21 release.

Greaves added that 30 years of research pointed to leukemia being a form of cancer that generally develops in affluent societies. The children living in these advanced countries were also found to live in much more sterile conditions however, less contact with other children or illnesses also resulted in higher rates of leukemia being diagnosed.

The research discovered that children who had older siblings or were breastfed – both which exposes children to good and bad bacteria – had lower rates of leukemia as they grew.

“Be less fussy about common or trivial infections and encourage social contact with other and older children,” Greaves said, via the BBC. The cancer researcher added that his research pushes back against the “persistent myths” that leukemia is caused by pollution or electro-magnetic waves.

“I hope this research will have a real impact on the lives of children. The most important implication is that most cases of childhood leukemia are likely to be preventable.”