Our modern lifestyles mean that we often keep everything squeaky clean, and intentionally protect our children from any potential germs. But oddly enough this isn’t actually a good thing. Our bodies are naturally meant to come into contact with all sorts of dirt and bugs when we’re growing up, as it’s what makes our immune systems good at dealing with unpleasant germs.
Therefore, as a child, lots of interaction with other kids, having pets, or playing in the dirt can actually be very beneficial to your health. But if you spent your childhood in a super-clean environment, you’re much more likely to suffer from asthma and allergies. You’re even at a higher risk of autoimmune diseases like type 1 diabetes and multiple sclerosis (MS). Our super-clean lifestyle is thought to be the reason why these conditions have skyrocketed in recent decades – but only in developed countries. Less developed nations who are exposed to more germs have not seen this dramatic rise.
“Infectious disease tracks with poverty,” first author Professor Mel Greaves, a leading cancer scientist, told The Guardian. “The problem is not infection. The problem is lack of infection.”
Nevertheless, as with most things, there probably isn't one sole culprit, so while cleanliness might contribute, it probably isn't the only cause. In terms of ALL, genetic predisposition and chance also play a role, and the researchers point out that parents of those with ALL should not feel responsible.
Still the findings could certainly help us combat the disease in future, and the researchers now plan to work on preventative treatments for ALL.