No differences in survival or neonatal outcomes in pregnancy-associated colorectal cancer

February 26, 2009

In one of the first studies to examine maternal and newborn health risks and colorectal cancer, UC Davis researchers have found that women diagnosed with the disease during or shortly after their pregnancies have the same survival as women who have the disease and are not pregnant. The study also found that, while there is an increased chance of preterm labor, the outcomes for the babies is the same for women with colorectal cancer as for those without the disease.

"We see a few cases of this every year, but there has been very little information so far on whether colorectal cancer discovered during or just after pregnancy leads to different outcomes. Our study clarifies these issues so physicians can confidently provide guidance to patients," said Lloyd Smith, a gynecologic oncologist with the UC Davis Cancer Center and senior author of the study.

The study, which will appear in the March issue of The Journal of Maternal-Fetal Health and Neonatal Medicine, used information gathered over an eight-year period from linked state of California databases on hospital discharges, birth records and cancers. Researchers compared information on 106 women diagnosed with colorectal cancer during or up to one year after pregnancy with two other groups. The first group included age-matched pregnant women without colorectal cancer. The second group included age-matched, non-pregnant women with colorectal cancer. A range of factors were considered, including demographics, treatment, onset of prenatal care, insurance type, tumor subtype and survival times.

The team found no significant distinctions in the comparisons, including survival times for the women with cancer, which were nearly identical — 43 percent in the pregnant group and 44 percent in the non-pregnant group. There was a two-fold increase in preterm labor and premature deliveries among women with colorectal cancer, however this had no affect on newborn health or survival.

"We're not sure why there were early deliveries in women with colon or rectal cancer. It could be related to a pregnancy-associated bacterial infection or an inflammatory response linked to the cancer. More research is needed to get to the cause of this tendency," Smith said.

The current study is one in a series from UC Davis aimed at learning more about cancers and pregnancy with the goal of giving reliable information to ob/gyns who manage patients with cancer. The researchers previously analyzed data on pregnancy-associated breast, skin, thyroid, cervical and ovarian cancers. Expected to be published in the future are studies on leukemia, lymphoma and brain and cervical cancers.

"The common finding across all of the studies so far is that most cancers escape detection during pregnancy and are typically discovered after delivery," said Smith, who is also chair of obstetrics and gynecology with UC Davis. "So far only breast cancer survival is negatively impacted by pregnancy, most likely due the stimulative effect of pregnancy hormones on the cancer."

The results of the current study should be reassuring to patients with pregnancy-associated colon or rectal cancer, however Smith advises greater awareness of cancer symptoms.

"There really were no obvious findings indicating where we could improve care, with the exception that physicians should be on the lookout with their pregnant patients for colon and rectal cancer symptoms," he said. "Rectal bleeding during pregnancy is often blamed on hemorrhoids. We should always be aware of the possibility of a tumor, even in young women."

Lead author Mary Dahling, a UC Davis medical resident when the study was conducted, also recommends additional prenatal services for women with family histories of cancer.

"Even though the obstetrical and neonatal outcomes for women with colorectal cancer were good, we should be sure to include genetic counseling in the range of services offered to women who are considering getting pregnant, especially if there is a genetic susceptibility for the disease," said Dahling, who is now in private practice in Minneapolis.

Source: University of California - Davis

Explore further: Fiber-rich diet boosts survival from colon cancer

Related Stories

Fiber-rich diet boosts survival from colon cancer

November 2, 2017
(HealthDay)—A diet rich in fiber may lessen the chances of dying from colon cancer, a new study suggests.

Study reveals large disparities in survival for patients with HPV-associated cancers

November 6, 2017
A new study found large disparities by sex, race, and age in survival for patients diagnosed with different cancers caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). Published early online in Cancer, a peer-reviewed journal of the ...

More women than men are diagnosed with bowel cancer as an emergency despite extra GP visits

November 3, 2017
More than a third (34 percent) of women with bowel cancer in England were diagnosed after an emergency hospital visit compared to less than a third of men (30 percent), despite women having more red flag symptoms and more ...

Report: Whole grains decrease colorectal cancer risk, processed meats increase the risk

September 7, 2017
Eating whole grains daily, such as brown rice or whole-wheat bread, reduces colorectal cancer risk, with the more you eat the lower the risk, finds a new report by the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) and the ...

How the anal cancer epidemic in gay and bi HIV-positive men can be prevented

September 27, 2017
Almost 620,000 gay and bisexual men in the United States were living with HIV in 2014, and 100,000 of these men were not even aware of their infection. These men are 100 times more likely to have anal cancer than HIV-negative ...

Two US scientists awarded Balzan Prize for cancer research

September 11, 2017
Two U.S. scientists whose work has contributed to creating immunological treatments for cancer are among the winners of this year's Balzan Prizes, announced Monday, recognizing scholarly and scientific achievements.

Recommended for you

Study suggests colon cancer cells carry bacteria with them when they metastasize

November 24, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—A team of researchers working at Harvard University has found evidence that suggests a certain type of bacteria found in colon cancer tumors makes its way to tumors in other body parts by traveling with ...

Promising new treatment for rare pregnancy cancer leads to remission in patients

November 24, 2017
An immunotherapy drug can be used to cure women of a rare type of cancer arising from pregnancy when existing treatments have failed.

Researchers unravel novel mechanism by which tumors grow resistant to radiotherapy

November 23, 2017
A Ludwig Cancer Research study has uncovered a key mechanism by which tumors develop resistance to radiation therapy and shown how such resistance might be overcome with drugs that are currently under development. The discovery ...

African Americans face highest risk for multiple myeloma yet underrepresented in research

November 23, 2017
Though African-American men are three times more likely to be diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer, most scientific research on the disease has been based on people of European descent, according to a study ...

Encouraging oxygen's assault on iron may offer new way to kill lung cancer cells

November 22, 2017
Blocking the action of a key protein frees oxygen to damage iron-dependent proteins in lung and breast cancer cells, slowing their growth and making them easier to kill. This is the implication of a study led by researchers ...

One-size treatment for blood cancer probably doesn't fit all, researchers say

November 22, 2017
Though African-American men are three times more likely to be diagnosed with a blood cancer called multiple myeloma, most scientific research on the disease has been based on people of European descent, according to a study ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.