(HealthDay News) — Prenatal exposure to maternal cancer with or without treatment does not impact early childhood development, according to a study published online Sept. 28 in the New England Journal of Medicine. The research was published to coincide with the 2015 European Cancer Congress, held from Sept. 25 to 29 in Vienna.
Frédéric Amant, M.D., from the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Belgium, and colleagues conducted a multicenter case-control study involving 129 children whose mothers had cancer (prenatal-exposure group) with a matching number in a control group. Data regarding neonatal and general health were collected using a health questionnaire and medical files. Children were prospectively assessed at 18 months, 36 months, or both.
The researchers found that 74.4 percent of the children were exposed to chemotherapy, 8.5 percent to radiotherapy, 10.1 percent to surgery alone, 1.6 percent to other drug treatments, and 10.9 percent to no treatment during pregnancy. Birth weight was below the 10th percentile in 22.0 and 15.2 percent of the prenatal exposure and control groups, respectively (P = 0.16). Cognitive development based on the Bayley score did not differ between the groups (P = 0.08) or in subgroup analyses. In the two study groups, gestational age at birth correlated with cognitive outcome.
“Our data suggest that the diagnosis of cancer during pregnancy is not necessarily an indication to terminate the pregnancy,” the authors write.