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Breast-feeding 'does not reduce eczema risk'

Researchers have called for a review of UK breastfeeding guidelines after their global study found no evidence that exclusive breastfeeding for four months or longer protects children against eczema.

The study looked at 51,119 children aged between eight and 12, from 21 different countries.

Researchers used parent reports, examined children for flexural eczema and did skin prick testing for common allergens. They found no significant association between lifetime risk of reported eczema and exclusive breastfeeding for more than four months – the pooled adjusted odds ratio was 1.05. Similarly, there was no significant association between exclusive breastfeeding and symptoms of eczema on skin examination.

Study lead Dr Carsten Flohr, honorary consultant in paediatric dermatology, King's College London said: ‘most European governments and allergy organisations recommend 4 months of exclusive breastfeeding to prevent allergies, including eczema...however, we found no evidence for a protective effect of breastfeeding and delayed weaning on eczema risk'.

But Dr Flohr emphasised that breastfeeding has other benefits on infant health, unrelated to eczema, he said: ‘our study does not change this notion.'

British Journal of Dermatology 2011, online 24 August

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