Breastfeeding and risk of childhood brain tumors: a report from the Childhood Cancer and Leukemia International Consortium

Cancer Causes Control. 2023 Nov;34(11):1005-1015. doi: 10.1007/s10552-023-01746-3. Epub 2023 Jul 8.


Purpose: Studies report mixed findings regarding the association of breastfeeding with childhood brain tumors (CBT), the leading causes of cancer-related mortality in young people. Our objective was to determine whether breastfeeding is associated with CBT incidence.

Methods: We pooled data on N = 2610 cases with CBT (including 697 cases with astrocytoma, 447 cases with medulloblastoma/primitive neuroectodermal tumor [PNET], 167 cases with ependymoma) and N = 8128 age- and sex-matched controls in the Childhood Cancer and Leukemia International Consortium. We computed unconditional logistic regression models to estimate the odds ratio (OR) and 95% confidence interval (CI) of CBT, astrocytoma, medulloblastoma/PNET, and ependymoma according to breastfeeding status, adjusting for study, sex, mode of delivery, birthweight, age at diagnosis/interview, maternal age at delivery, maternal educational attainment, and maternal race/ethnicity. We evaluated any breastfeeding versus none and breastfeeding ≥ 6 months versus none. We subsequently performed random effects meta-analysis to confirm our findings, identify potential sources of heterogeneity, and evaluate for outliers or influential studies.

Results: Breastfeeding was reported by 64.8% of control mothers and 64.5% of case mothers and was not associated with CBT (OR 1.04, 95% CI 0.94-1.15), astrocytoma (OR 1.01, 95% CI 0.87-1.17), medulloblastoma/PNET (OR 1.11, 95% CI 0.93-1.32), or ependymoma (OR 1.06, 95% CI 0.81-1.40). Results were similar when we restricted to breastfeeding ≥ 6 months and in meta-analyses.

Conclusion: Our data suggest that breastfeeding does not protect against CBT.

Keywords: Breastfeeding; Childhood Cancer; Childhood brain tumors; Childhood cancer; Epidemiology; Infant feeding; Leukemia International Consortium.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Astrocytoma* / epidemiology
  • Astrocytoma* / etiology
  • Brain Neoplasms* / epidemiology
  • Brain Neoplasms* / etiology
  • Breast Feeding
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cerebellar Neoplasms*
  • Child
  • Ependymoma* / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Leukemia* / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Medulloblastoma* / epidemiology
  • Neuroectodermal Tumors, Primitive* / epidemiology
  • Risk Factors