May 6th, 2010
01:02 PM ET

Drinking alcohol while pregnant can increase childhood leukemia

By Kenneth J. Hughes
CNN Medical Intern

Drinking mothers increase their unborn babies' risk of developing acute myeloid leukemia (AML) says a study published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers, & Prevention. Adding to the list of reasons not to drink while pregnant, the increased risk of AML in children between the ages of 0 and 4 was shown to increase in mothers that self-reported consuming one drink per week.

The study also took into account the kind of alcohol consumed. The risk remained the same regardless of the kind of alcohol. “The recommendation not to drink alcohol during pregnancy concerns all types of alcoholic beverages,” advises Dr. Paule Latino-Martel, the lead researcher for the study.

The study found women who drank alcohol during the second and third trimester showed an increased risk of AML developing in their babies. The reason why in-utero exposure to alcohol may increase the risk of AML in younger children is still unknown and requires further investigation, the study noted.

AML, typically rare in children, is a rapidly progressing cancer of the blood and bone marrow affecting the development of vital life-giving red and white blood cells and platelets. AML patients typically experience anemia, easy bleeding, higher risk of infection and the danger of leukemia cells spreading to other organ systems in the body.

The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society website states that treatment of AML in children is less likely to bring about remission when under the age of one. Treatment for leukemia in children can also have long-term or late effects involving growth and development.

The American Cancer Society’s website details various potential causes for childhood AML and that no current definitive cause for AML exists.

Mothers considering a drink during pregnancy should not only consider the risk of cancer for their baby, but fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) as well. According to The Mayo Clinic, as many as 40,000 babies are born with alcohol related damage each year in the United States.

The March of Dimes provides a fact sheet for anyone looking for information on the risks drinking alcohol during pregnancy.

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soundoff (6 Responses)
  1. traffikator

    Kenneth, the least you could do is put a link for the specific study you mentioned, Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers, & Prevention. At the bare minimum you could state the concentration of alcohol. I could quote a study that show vaccinations kill. Yes, you could pull in 5 cc's of pure air, inject into someones vein and they die from embolism. I could say drinking water kills. Yes it happened, live on radio. What I am saying is that anything can kill, if taken in excess and enough concentration. Are these women drinking a glass of red wine with no more that 4% alcohol or are they consuming something with 60% alcohol?
    Post a link to the raw data so we can see the control group and the test group results.

    May 6, 2010 at 14:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. C Goldsmith

    Citation below – only the abstract is available free. It looks like it involved all of 21 women!

    doi: 10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-09-1110
    Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention May 2010 19; 1238

    May 6, 2010 at 20:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. kathy

    It would be interesting to see the gender of the babies born with AML as we know that the males are the weaker gender and are far more prone to deadly disease so I would suspect that more males are born with AML than are girls. There are 150 male fetuses for every 100 girls but only 105 of these male fetus survive to birth. Males die more often at every age so although the makes have a 105 to 100 head start, there are an equal number of girls within a short time.

    Incidence rates for all types of leukemia are higher among males than among females. In 2009, males are expected to account for more than 57 percent of the new cases of leukemia. If I remember right, women survive this (and almost every disease) better than the males do.

    When we consider this, it is odd to realize our government is spending far more to promote women's health than it does for the males since it is the male that is in more of a health care crisis and they need more help. Perhaps this is because the government also realizes the value of women over the value of males and that between the two genders; the male is actually the more expandable gender as any society needs more women to carry on than it needs males.

    May 7, 2010 at 00:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Ron

    Kathy, I use to think males were the stronger sex but after doing a lot of research and reading I have to agree with you that as much as I do not like it, males are far weaker than women. It seems we die from almost everything except things males can not get much faster than women. One thing that really convinced me however is when my girlfriend gave me a copy of "The Natural Superiority of Women" LOL it was bad enough to know that we are the weaker sex biologically but this shows me that we are the inferior gender in almost every area. It has stopped me from bragging that I am a male and that I have big you know whats.

    I did not know that there were 150 males conceived for every 100 girls. That seems like a high number of males that do not even get to the starting line. I also did not realize the spending difference on the health of men and that of women but when we think of it, if there are so many health care dollars to go around, we need to spend it where it will do the most good and sad for me to say as a male that would be on women.

    May 8, 2010 at 02:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Mollie

    Just read this article and I found it helpful AND validating. My pregnancies were almost 30 years ago, and the warning about alcohol intake and fetal development were just beginning to circulate. Thanks for a heads up that is both timely and eternal

    May 10, 2010 at 16:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. wjean

    having a glass of wine once a month while pregnant isn't a bad thing... this is such an "american" way of thinking. there are FAR worse things pregnant women do everyday that increases the chances of potentially harming the fetus. ie. air pollution, mold in your house, DIET!!! lack of exercise... so just give it a rest.

    May 23, 2010 at 14:16 | Report abuse | Reply

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