Health Concerns

Leukemia

Dietary and Lifestyle Considerations

Maintain a Healthy Weight

An estimated 20% of all cancers are caused by obesity, and obesity is associated with an increased risk of developing leukemia (De Pergola 2013; Strom 2012). A study on 1068 leukemia patients and 5039 control subjects found that higher body mass index (BMI) was linked to greater risk of AML, CML, and CLL (Kasim 2005).

Avoid Smoking

Multiple studies have demonstrated that smoking cigarettes increases the risk of developing leukemia, particularly adult AML (Brownson 1993; Thomas 2004; Musselman 2013; Strom 2012; Kasim 2005; Ma 2010). 

Consume a Healthy, Varied Diet

A 2013 analysis of 323 adult AML patients and 380 controls found that AML risk was significantly decreased among those who consumed the most dark green vegetables, seafood, nuts, and seeds; risk was significantly increased among those who consumed the most red meat (Yamamura 2013). An analysis of dietary patterns in 2–20 year olds found that eating cured or smoked meat or fish more than once a week was associated with an increased risk of acute leukemia, but higher intake of vegetables and bean curd (tofu) was associated with reduced risk (Liu 2009). A subsequent study also found an association between higher levels of meat consumption and increased risk of AML (Ma 2010).

ALL is the most common cancer in children aged 1-7 and may develop in children in utero (while the mother is still pregnant) (Li 2013; LLS 2011c; Xu 2013). Several studies have concluded that when pregnant mothers eat a healthier diet, the risk of ALL in their children decreases. In a case control study, a significant 35% lower incidence of ALL was observed in children of mothers who ate more vegetables; the risk was 45% lower when mothers ate adequate protein and 25% lower when mothers ate more legumes (Kwan 2009). Another case control study found similar results: greater intake of fruit, vegetables, and seafood was associated with a 28%, 24%, and 28% lower risk, respectively. Greater consumption of sugars and syrups while pregnant increased childhood ALL risk by 32%, while greater red meat increased it by 25% (Petridou 2005).

An earlier study found that increased maternal consumption of the following foods in the 12 months prior to pregnancy was correlated with a reduced risk of childhood ALL: vegetables (47% lower risk); protein (60% lower); fruits (29% lower). Additionally, maternal diet rich in carotenoids such as beta-carotene (precursor to vitamin A), lycopene, and lutein was associated with a 35% lower risk of ALL (Jensen 2004).

Folate supplementation during pregnancy has also been found to be protective against ALL development in children (Thompson 2001). Higher maternal dietary intake of folate and vitamin B12 during pregnancy was protective against childhood ALL in another study (Bailey 2012; Petridou 2005).