Headlines 2016

New study: Infant care reduces risk of cancer


Associate Professor Therese Nilsson, IFN and Lund University, together with Professors Martin Karlsson, University of Duisburg-Essen and Sonia Bhalotra, University of Essex, has studied the introduction of a free infant care program introduced on a trial basis in Sweden in the 1930s. The program provided information, support and monitoring of infants. The research shows that the care significantly improved health. The result indicates the importance of infant care to combat sickness among young children and ill health later in life. Therese Nilsson explains that the children who received the free care lived longer and the risk was reduced of being diagnosed with cancer decades later.

In this first study the researchers have investigated the relationship between infant health and life expectancy. They tracked the children that in 1931-1933 were part of a pilot project with entirely free care during the first year of life. During that time, the mothers received information on how to take care of their children and also home visits to families with newborns.

“Our results show that the children born in areas covered by the pilot program survived infancy to a greater extent than those who did not have access to the same care. Those who received care lived longer and the risk for being diagnosed with cancer decreased decades later,” says Therese Nilsson.

The researchers found that dietary advice for children, given to the mothers in the 30s, probably was an important explanation for the long-term health benefits. In future studies, Nilsson, Karlsson and Bahlotra will look at the same children’s school results and outcome on the labor market.

Read the working paper No 1124

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