Exposing kids to germs reduces their likelihood of developing diseases such as asthma and diabetes.
An analysis of 14 studies shows children who attend day care or play groups decrease their risk of developing the most common type of childhood leukemia by 30 percent. The analysis bolsters the theory that children exposed to common infections early in life gain protection from the disease. The research was presented in April 2008 at the Causes and Prevention of Childhood Leukemia conference in London.
How would exposing kids to germs protect them from cancer?
Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN chief medical correspondent: We've known for some time that exposing kids to germs reduces their likelihood of developing diseases such as asthma and diabetes. This study looked at a lot of research on leukemia and social interaction among kids. The researchers determined that kids who attend day care and play groups decrease their risk of developing the most common type of childhood leukemia by 30 percent.
Their theory is that genetics and lack of exposure to germs play a strong role in determining whether a child develops leukemia. We know in places with a lot of kids, there's more chance of infections spreading. But if kids are kept isolated, their immune systems aren't challenged early in life, and they may not develop normally. If children also have a genetic predisposition to an overactive immune system, they could be at higher risk for cancer. The reason for this is when their immune systems finally encounter a virus later in life, the cells meant to fight the infection start dividing really fast. This gives them more of a chance to mutate and become cancerous.
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