[back] Vitamin K injection

Newborn Vitamin K administration linked to higher cancer rate for 1-6 year old children
SOURCE: British Medical Journal, 316:189-193, Jan 17, 1998

In this study of over 4000 children, published in the British Medical Journal (1998), scientists did not identify an increased risk for "all" child cancers for infants given Vitamin-K injections.  However, when scientists went one step further and investigated individual types of cancer, they did in fact find an increased risk for the cancer lymphoblastic leukemia.  The study compared cancer rates for infants born in hospitals where all children received Vitamin-K to hospitals where only one-third of infants received Vitamin-K. 

CHEM-TOX COMMENT:  Vitamin K administration is often given to newborns under the premise that it is important in reducing the risk of hemorrhagic disease (excessive bleeding).  Because of previous studies showing genetic damage occurring in blood cells of animals given vitamin-K, there has been concern that negative effects could occur in children given Vitamin-K.  A number of follow up studies looking for increased cancer risk in children given Vitamin-K have been conducted with the majority showing no increased risk.   However, these studies have investigated "overall" cancer risk, thereby diluting potential to identify increases in specific cancers.  This particular study, which investigated specific child cancers, was in fact able to identify an increased cancer risk for lymphoblastic leukemia.  Since risk for excessive bleeding in newborns is higher for mothers taking certain prescription medications dudring pregnancy - studies need to be conducted to determine if beneficial effects of Vitamin-K are significant for mothers who are not taking these specific prescription medications during pregnancy. 

Sir James Spence Institute of Child Health
University of Newcastle upon Tyne, England