If you get the Daily Mail, you’ve probably read the story they broke about Professor Jean Golding, of the Institute of Child Health in Bristol, who recently performed a study showing a link between giving newborns an intramuscular shot of vitamin K

She set up a second study recently to see if she could repeat her earlier findings. After studying the records of 111 children with cancer and 565 healthy controls, she again found that children who’d developed cancer were more likely to have had intramuscular vitamin K injection at birth than those given oral vitamin K or nothing. Currently, the risk of a child developing cancer is 1 in 500. Professor Golding believes that the vitamin K shot increases this risk by two and a half times.

Vitamin K is given to prevent children dying from haemorrhagic disease; because the blood of babies doesn’t clot well, it is assumed that they can easily bleed to death. The risk of this happening is about 1 in 10,000 .

Following the Daily Mail disclosure, the Department of Health and the British Paediatric Association are tripping over themselves to review the safety of the injections.

Professor Golding’s findings could be a common statistical glitch which makes coincidental associations between disparate incidents. Vitamin K could be a potential carcinogen (which seems unlikely since babies given the vitamin orally aren’t at increased risk). Or the culprit could be the shot itself, which could be exposing newborns to agents like viruses which may later trigger cancer. Some animal studies have shown that chromosomes break up after vitamin K injection.

Or as Andrew McNinch recently wrote in the British Medical Journal, there may be a biological advantage to the vitamin K deficiency in early infancy, something that somehow works symbiotically with breastfeeding.

If that is the case, it is one more instance where medicine, operating on the premise that nature is imperfect and figuring that all you need to do is a little tweak here or there, clumsily upsets an exquisite balance it doesn’t understand and thereby causes a load of problems far worse than the relatively benign one it initially set out to solve.

I hate to harp on this, but if the jab itself is the problem for babies, what are the implications for that other llittle “improvement” on nature: vaccination?

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Written by What Doctors Don't Tell You

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