Pregnancy Can Be Safe for Childhood Cancer Survivors

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There is a growing number of childhood cancer survivors. Does the chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or surgery lead to problems with pregnancy and/or the babies?

Beth A. Mueller, DrPH, of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the University of Washington, and colleagues has tried to find the answer. To do this, the researchers used cancer registries and birth records from four U.S. states to identify 1,898 infants born to women with a history of childhood cancers. This data included women who were diagnosed with cancer before the age of 20 between 1973 and 2000.

The researchers compared those births to 14,278 births by women who had not had cancer. The results were published online Oct. 5 in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.

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Good news for women who are childhood cancer survivors. They do not appear to be at higher risk for major complications during pregnancy, for babies with birth defects, or for children who die in infancy.

Childhood cancer survivors’ infants are prone to lower birth weights (less than 2,500 gm) and preterm deliveries. The authors suggest that pregnancies among survivors be closely monitored because of these two risks to minimize any problems.

The researchers found survivors of childhood genital track cancers to have a higher risk of preterm or low birth weigh infants than survivors of other cancers. Survivors of childhood bone cancer were found to have nearly four times the risk of diabetes. Survivors of childhood brain cancers were two times more likely to suffer from anemia.

The authors state their study is weakened "because we lacked information about fetal loss or childbearing intent, and thus our findings are relevant to women who were able to have live births and to the first birth recorded after diagnosis."

Source: Mueller B, et al "Pregnancy outcomes in female childhood and adolescent cancer survivors" Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 2009; 163: 879-86.

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