Maternal dietary risk factors in childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia (United States)

Cancer Causes Control. 2004 Aug;15(6):559-70. doi: 10.1023/B:CACO.0000036161.98734.17.


Objective: Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is the most common childhood cancer, and the second most common cause of mortality in children aged 1-14 years. Recent research has established that the disease can originate in utero, and thus maternal diet may be an important risk factor for ALL.

Methods: The Northern California Childhood Leukemia Study is a population-based case-control study of risk factors for childhood leukemia, including maternal diet. Cases (n = 138) and controls (n = 138) were matched on sex, date of birth, mother's race, Hispanicity, and county of residence at birth. Maternal dietary intake in the 12 months prior to pregnancy was obtained by a 76-item food frequency questionnaire.

Results: Consumption of the vegetables (OR = 0.53; 95% CI, 0.33-0.85; p = 0.008), protein sources (OR = 0.40; 95% CI, 0.18-0.90, p = 0.03), and fruits (OR = 0.71; 95% CI, 0.49-1.04; p = 0.08) food groups were inversely associated with ALL. Among nutrients, consumption of provitamin A carotenoids (OR = 0.65, 95% CI, 0.42-1.01; p = 0.05), and the antioxidant glutathione (OR = 0.42; 95% CI, 0.16-1.10; p = 0.08) were inversely associated with ALL.

Conclusion: Maternal dietary factors, specifically the consumption of vegetables, fruits, protein sources and related nutrients, may play a role in the etiology of ALL. Dietary carotenoids and glutathione appear to be important contributors to this effect.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Diet*
  • Dietary Proteins
  • Female
  • Fruit
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Maternal Exposure*
  • Precursor Cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia-Lymphoma / epidemiology*
  • Precursor Cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia-Lymphoma / etiology*
  • Precursor Cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia-Lymphoma / prevention & control
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects*
  • Risk Factors
  • Vegetables


  • Dietary Proteins