Good Nutrition In Childhood Can Prevent Some Cancers In Later Life

February 13, 1998

(Childhood energy intake and adult mortality from cancer: the Boyd Orr cohort study)

Interest in the relation between underfeeding and reduced mortality is long standing - it was shown 60 years ago that energy restriction, in an otherwise adequate diet, extended the life of rats considerably. In this week's BMJ, Frankel et al examine the relationship between dietary intake during childhood and adult mortality from cancer. The authors took the 1937-9 Boyd Orr study of 3834 children aged 16 years and under, which examined their dietary intake and traced these individuals through to adulthood. Overall, five per cent of the population studied, died of cancer. However ,they found that children with a lower dietary intake were less likely to suffer from some cancers in later life and that those with a higher energy intake were at an increased risk. Frankel et al conclude that their results confirm the importance of optimal nutrition during childhood, particularly in light of current concerns about excess food intake in relation exercise. Note: The authors highlight that the effect was limited to cancers not related to smoking.


Professor Stephen Frankel, Professor of Epidemiology and Public Health Medicine, Department of Social Medicine, University of Bristol


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