Coffee may raise child cancer risk

Experts say caffeine may damage the DNA of children in the womb. They become more susceptible to leukaemia, the most common cancer in children.

Women who drink coffee or tea during pregnancy may increase their baby’s odds of developing cancer, doctors believe.

Researcher Dr Marcus Cooke said there was a ‘good likelihood’ the study would make a connection. Previous research has shown that caffeine damages DNA, cutting cells’ ability to fight off cancer triggers such as radiation.

To establish the link, scientists at Leicester University will scrutinise the caffeine intake of hundreds of pregnant women and compare the results with blood samples from their children after birth.

‘Although there’s no evidence at all of a link between caffeine and cancer, we’re putting four and four together and saying: caffeine can induce these changes and it has been shown that these changes are elevated in leukaemia patients,’ added Dr Cooke.

Changes of this kind have been seen in the blood cells of children with leukaemia. Scientists know they occur in the womb, but do not know why.

‘I wonder if caffeine can somehow sensitise cells or increase the risk of leukaemia? The idea seems plausible.

‘It is vital for mothers that they either confirm caffeine as a trigger that can make something happen to a kid while in the womb or rule it out.’

The Food Standards Agency recently reduced the amount of caffeine it advises can be safely consumed in pregnancy from 300mg a day to 200mg. This is equivalent to four mugs of instant coffee, three cups of tea or four cans of cola.
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