(HealthDay News) — Children with nonchromosomal birth defects have a higher relative risk for cancer, though the absolute risk is still low, according to a study published online June 20 in JAMA Oncology.

Philip J. Lupo, Ph.D., from the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, and colleagues identified specific associations between birth defects and childhood cancer and characterized cancer risk in children with an increasing number of nonchromosomal birth defects. Analysis included pooled, statewide data on births, birth defects, and cancer from Texas, Arkansas, Michigan, and North Carolina (10,181,074 children born between 1992 and 2013, with follow-up through 18 years of age).

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The researchers found that compared with children without any birth defects, children with chromosomal anomalies were 11.6 times more likely to be diagnosed with cancer, while children with nonchromosomal birth defects were 2.5 times more likely to be diagnosed with cancer before age 18. There was an increase in cancer risk associated with an increasing number of nonchromosomal birth defects. For instance, children with at least four major birth defects were 5.9 times more likely to be diagnosed with cancer versus patients without a birth defect. Of 72 specific associations between birth defects and childhood cancer, 40 had statistically significant hazard ratios, even after adjusting for multiple comparisons. Nonchromosomal defects were most frequently associated with hepatoblastoma and neuroblastoma cancers.

“These findings could inform clinical treatment for children with birth defects and may elucidate mechanisms that lead to these complex outcomes,” the authors write.

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