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Birth Weight a Factor in Childhood Cancer

screen-shot-2016-11-25-at-10-43-43-amAn important piece of the puzzle in how to prevent or reduce childhood cancers has recently come to light.

A study by the International Childhood Cancer Cohort Consortium (I4C) and released July 2015 in the journal Paediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology, announced that the occurrence of childhood cancer rises as birthweight increases.

Data was collected from over 380,000 live births over a span of 50 years and from six geographically diverse regions: the UK, USA, Denmark, Israel, Norway and Australia.

The total analysis included 377 children with cancer, including 115 with leukaemia and 262 with non-leukaemia-type cancers.

After adjusting for gestational age (GA) and sex, the study observed an increased cancer risk of 26% for every additional kilogram in birthweight. In older children (diagnosed at or after three years of age), cancers other than leukaemia are particularly related to high birthweight.

Future directions for the researchers involve investigating why there is such a correlation.

 

Maternal Weight is NOT a Contributor to an Increased Risk of Childhood Cancers

Of importance was the revelation that there were NO significant correlation with the mothers’ pre-pregnancy overweight or pregnancy weight gain. This is despite the evidence that maternal pre-pregnancy overweight and excess pregnancy weight gain are increasingly recognised determinants of large-for-GA babies. In Australia, women tend to be older and often heavier when giving birth than in previous decades.What maternal over weight/ obesity does contribute to is increased proportion of these infants having a larger GA and a possible rise in metabolic and cardiovascular conditions for the child.


Factors that Contribute to Birth Weight

Contributors to a child’s birth weight are varied but include both environmental and genetic factors. Birth weight is influenced by maternal attributes, notably height, parity (the number of times a mother has given birth), diabetes and other metabolic factors, smoking, socio-economic status and ethnicity.

 

Childhood Cancer in Australia

  • One in 500 Australian children will develop a cancer before 15 years of age — this translates to 600 Australian children diagnosed every year.
  • Childhood cancer is the single greatest cause of death from disease in Australian children, with three children losing their lives to cancer every week.

 

Final Word

The results from this study provide an important piece of the puzzle determining risk factors associated with the development of childhood cancers. It is however a single piece of the puzzle. Further investigations should continue to focus on genetic and environmental exposures that jointly influence both foetal growth and cancer development, allowing for a more complete picture. This is turn will advance more accurate treatment protocols and advice when addressing these insidious and devastating childhood diseases.

 

Further Reading

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