Skip Navigation
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Dot gov

The .gov means it’s official.
Federal government websites often end in .gov or .mil. Before sharing sensitive information, make sure you’re on a federal government site.


The site is secure.
The https:// ensures that you are connecting to the official website and that any information you provide is encrypted and transmitted securely.

Your Environment. Your Health.

Metabolites Linked to Nutrition May Play a Role in Childhood Leukemia Risk

Stephen Rappaport, Ph.D.
University of California, Berkeley
P01ES018172, P50ES018172, U2CES026561

NIEHS grantees revealed associations between the presence of certain metabolites shortly after birth and childhood diagnosis of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). Notably, late-onset ALL patients exhibited more abundant metabolites linked to formula feeding rather than breast milk, indicating a possible role of nutrition in late-onset ALL risk.

Using archived neonatal blood spots, the researchers compared 332 children who later developed ALL with 324 healthy children. The newborn blood spots were typically obtained between 24 and 48 hours post-delivery, generally after infants had received multiple feedings. Children diagnosed with ALL were separated by age at diagnosis into two groups: early, 1–5 years; and late, 6–14 years.

The researchers identified metabolic features exclusive to each of the two groups of cases compared with controls. Nine metabolites predicted early ALL diagnosis and 19 different metabolites predicted late diagnosis. In the late-diagnosis group, they found a cluster of metabolites that indicated linoleic acid, an essential nutrient, was more abundant in these children than in either the early-onset cases or controls. Linoleic acid metabolites were also greater in infants fed formula rather than breast milk, in the form of colostrum, in the first few days of life. Levels of the metabolites increased with the mother’s pre-pregnancy body mass index, suggesting that mother’s weight may also be involved in late-diagnosis ALL risk.

According to the authors, this untargeted approach to measuring metabolites in neonatal blood spots may link early-life exposures with later health effects and also point to biological pathways involved in disease risk.

Citation: Petrick LM, Schiffman C, Edmands WMB, Yano Y, Perttula K, Whitehead T, Metayer C, Wheelock CE, Arora M, Grigoryan H, Carlsson H, Dudoit S, Rappaport SM. 2019. Metabolomics of neonatal blood spots reveal distinct phenotypes of pediatric acute lymphoblastic leukemia and potential effects of early-life nutrition. Cancer Lett 452:71–78.

to Top