Children with non-chromosomal birth defects face higher risk of several childhood cancers

April 16, 2018, American Association for Cancer Research

Children with non-chromosomal birth defects such as congenital heart disease had a significantly higher risk of developing childhood cancer than children who did not have birth defects, according to a study presented at the AACR Annual Meeting 2018, April 14-18.

"Approximately one in 33 children is born with a ," said the study's lead author, Jeremy M. Schraw, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow at Texas Children's Cancer Center, Texas Children's Hospital, and Department of Medicine, Section of Epidemiology and Population Science, Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

"While we know that children with certain chromosomal conditions, like Down syndrome, have an increased risk of , the majority of have no known chromosomal or genetic cause, but less is known about cancer risk in these children. There is growing evidence that non-chromosomal birth defects may predispose children to cancer, and we are trying to learn more about this connection so that we can potentially identify children who may benefit from early cancer detection," Schraw continued.

In this study, the researchers pooled statewide registry data from Texas, Michigan, North Carolina, and Arkansas for the period 1992-2013, and linked information from birth certificates, birth defects registries, and cancer registries. They used Cox proportional hazard models to evaluate associations between 60 birth defects and 31 childhood cancers.

Beginning with a population of more than 10 million live births, Schraw and colleagues identified 517,548 children with non-chromosomal birth defects and 14,774 children with cancer. They found that the risk of any cancer was 2.6 times higher in children with non-chromosomal birth defects than in those without a defect.

Certain cancers were strongly associated with certain birth defects. For example, children with ventricular septal defects, which cause a hole in the wall between the heart's lower chambers, were at significantly higher risk (10-fold increased risk) of hepatoblastoma, a rare form of cancer that starts in the liver. Children with craniosynostosis and right ventricular outflow tract defects were significantly more likely (more than three- and seven-fold increased risk, respectively) to have neuroblastoma.

Some birth defects, including the fairly common cleft palate and cleft lip, had no association with childhood cancer, Schraw said.

Schraw emphasized that is rare and, therefore, the risk that a child with a non-chromosomal birth defect will develop cancer during childhood is low.

"This study cannot establish a cause-and-effect relationship between birth defects and childhood cancers, and it is much too soon to make clinical recommendations based on this information," Schraw said. "We do hope our findings spur additional inquiries into these associations, so that we may better understand the biology underlying these associations."

He added that if confirmed in future research, these findings could provide justification for increased cancer surveillance protocols in children with non-chromosomal birth defects.

Schraw said that he and his colleagues are planning to expand this study into other states. They are also conducting genomic sequencing in families where a child has both a birth defect and cancer to explore whether there are shared genetic origins underlying these associations. He said this additional genomic information could also shed light on why certain cancer types were more strongly associated with certain birth defects.

Schraw said that because the study was based on registry data, the researchers had little information on the children's health between birth and cancer diagnosis. Also, because the researchers did not have biological samples from the , they could not fully discern the molecular features of their cancers.

Explore further: Birth defects, cancer linked

Related Stories

Birth defects, cancer linked

August 15, 2017
Some children born with birth defects may be at increased risk for specific types of cancer, according to a new review from the Brown School and the School of Medicine at Washington University in St. Louis.

Major birth defects associated with moderately increased cancer risk in children

August 12, 2013
A multistate study led by researchers at the University of Utah has revealed that the risk for childhood cancer is moderately increased among children and young adolescents with certain types of major birth defects. Children ...

2016 saw increase in birth defects potentially linked to Zika

January 29, 2018
(HealthDay)—From the first half of 2016 to the second half of 2016, there was an increase in the number of birth defects potentially related to Zika virus infection, according to research published in the Jan. 26 issue ...

Children with specific birth defects at increased risk for abuse

December 10, 2015
Children born with cleft lip or palate and spina bifida are at an increased risk for abuse before the age of 2, according to researchers from The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth).The results ...

Causes of major birth defects still largely unknown

May 30, 2017
Causes of major birth defects remain largely unknown, say US researchers in The BMJ today, who were able to establish a definite cause in only one in every five infants they studied.

Fertility treatments aren't significantly linked to birth defects

October 23, 2014
(HealthDay)—The risk of birth defects is low among children conceived using assisted reproductive technologies (ART), according to a new study.

Recommended for you

Magnetized wire could be used to detect cancer in people, scientists report

July 16, 2018
A magnetic wire used to snag scarce and hard-to-capture tumor cells could prove to be a swift and effective tactic for early cancer detection, according to a study by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

Researchers suggest new treatment for rare inherited cancers

July 16, 2018
Studying two rare inherited cancer syndromes, Yale Cancer Center (YCC) scientists have found the cancers are driven by a breakdown in how cells repair their DNA. The discovery, published today in Nature Genetics, suggests ...

Researchers map 'family trees' of acute myeloid leukemia

July 16, 2018
For the first time, a team of international researchers has mapped the family trees of cancer cells in acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) to understand how this blood cancer responds to a new drug, enasidenib. The work also explains ...

Scientists sharpen the edges of cancer chemotherapy with CRISPR

July 13, 2018
Tackling unsolved problems is a cornerstone of scientific research, propelled by the power and promise of new technologies. Indeed, one of the shiniest tools in the biomedical toolkit these days is the genome editing system ...

Products of omega-3 fatty acid metabolism may have anticancer effects, study shows

July 13, 2018
A class of molecules formed when the body metabolizes omega-3 fatty acids could inhibit cancer's growth and spread, University of Illinois researchers report in a new study in mice. The molecules, called endocannabinoids, ...

Looking at the urine and blood may be best in diagnosing myeloma

July 13, 2018
When it comes to diagnosing a condition in which the plasma cells that normally make antibodies to protect us instead become cancerous, it may be better to look at the urine as well as the serum of our blood for answers, ...

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.