Thursday, October 8, 2009

Babies Born to Childhood Cancer Survivors Do Well

Cancer treatments can compromise fertility, but new research suggests that when survivors of childhood cancer are able to have children, their babies do not face an increased risk of birth defects.

Women who survived childhood cancer were more likely to have premature or low birth weight babies compared with women who had never had cancer, one study found. But the survivors’ newborns were no more likely to have malformations or die, nor were the mothers at greater risk for pregnancy complications over all.

A companion study of men who had survived childhood cancer found that their offspring were slightly more likely to be of low birth weight (less than five and a half pounds), but they were not at greater risk for birth defects or prematurity than children born to men who had not had cancer.

The two studies, done by researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, were published in The Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.

The researchers used national cancer registry data from 1973 to 2000 in four regions — Seattle, Detroit, Salt Lake City and Atlanta — to identify boys and girls who had cancer before age 20. They then linked the data to birth records to identify the first children born to cancer survivors after their diagnosis.

They were able to compare the outcomes of babies born to 1,898 female cancer survivors with 14,278 controls, also identified from birth records, and to compare the outcomes of 470 babies of male survivors with 4,150 controls.

“The main take-home message is that most kids born to childhood cancer survivors did very well,” said Dr. Eric J. Chow, an author on both papers and a research associate at the cancer center.

The study was limited because it was only able to count birth defects that were obvious upon delivery, he said. Still, he added, “Most people can feel reassured.”

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