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According to the results of a study published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, maternal alcohol consumption during pregnancy may increase the risk of acute myeloid leukemia (AML) in the offspring.

Leukemia is a cancer of the blood cells. There are many different types of leukemia, depending upon which specific blood cells are affected. Each type of leukemia has different disease characteristics and different treatment options.

The most common type of leukemia in children is acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL).

To explore the relationship between maternal alcohol consumption during pregnancy and risk of leukemia in the child, researchers evaluated information from 21 previously published studies.

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Alcohol use during pregnancy (assessed as yes/no) did not increase the risk of ALL in the child, but was linked with a 56% increase in risk of another type of leukemia known as acute myeloid leukemia (AML). This type of leukemia is much more common in adults than in children, but does affect some children.

The results of this study suggest that maternal alcohol consumption during pregnancy may increase the risk of AML in the offspring. It’s important to be aware, however, that this analysis had some important limitations: the studies that were evaluated were all “case-control” studies. This type of study can be prone to bias.

It’s also important to keep in mind that the baseline risk of AML in children is low. Even with a moderate increase in this risk as a result of alcohol use, most children will not develop AML. Nevertheless, this study may provide some additional motivation for avoiding alcohol during pregnancy.

Reference:  Latino-Martel P, Chan DSM, Druesne-Pecollo N, Barrandon E, Hercberg S, Norat T. Maternal alcohol consumption during pregnancy and risk of childhood leukemia: systematic review and meta-analysis. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. 2010;19:1238–60.

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