The relationship between childhood cancer and having been breastfed in infancy was investigated in the UK Childhood Cancer Study (UKCCS), a national, population-based case-control study. Analyses included 3500 children with cancer (cases) of whom 1637 were diagnosed with leukaemia, 114 with Hodgkin's disease, 228 with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and 1521 with other cancer and 6964 controls. 62% cases and 64% controls were reported to have ever been breastfed. There was weak evidence, of borderline statistical significance, that having been breastfed was associated with a small reduction in the odds ratios for leukaemia (odds ratio = 0.89, 95% Cl 0.80-1.00, P = 0.06), and for all cancers combined (odds ratio = 0.92, 95% Cl 0.84-1.00, P = 0.05). Combining data from the UKCCS with results from other published studies showed a small reduction in the odds ratios for leukaemia, Hodgkin's disease, non-haematological cancers, and all childhood cancers combined, associated with ever having been breastfed. It is unclear whether the apparent small reduction in the odds ratio for these various types of childhood cancer is a generalized effect of breastfeeding or whether it reflects some systematic bias in the majority of studies that have investigated the question.

Original publication




Journal article


Br J Cancer

Publication Date





1685 - 1694


Age Factors, Breast Feeding, Case-Control Studies, Child, Child, Preschool, Female, Hodgkin Disease, Humans, Infant, Leukemia, Lymphoma, Non-Hodgkin, Neoplasms, Odds Ratio