Women who underwent treatment for cancer during their childbearing years may be at higher risk of giving birth prematurely and delivering a baby whose weight is below normal. In addition, cancer survivors may also have a slightly higher rate of cesarean section deliveries, according to a new study published in the journal JAMA Oncology.1

The researchers report that the higher prevalence of these outcomes was most concentrated among births to women whose cancer was diagnosed during pregnancy. They also identified other factors associated with preterm birth and low birth weight. These factors included treatment with chemotherapy and a diagnosis of breast cancer, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, or gynecologic cancers.

The investigators conducted a case-control cohort study using data from the North Carolina Central Cancer Registry and statewide birth certificate files to identify births to adolescent and young cancer survivors (ages 15 to 39 years at diagnosis). They identify female adolescent and young cancer survivors whose diagnoses were made from January 2000 to December 2013 and linked them to statewide birth certificate files from January 2000 to December 2014. The investigators found there were 2598 post diagnosis live births, and compared these to a cohort of births to 12,990 women who did not have a recorded cancer diagnosis.

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Among the cancer survivors, 13% had a preterm birth (born before 37 weeks), compared to 9% of women who did not have cancer. The risk for preterm birth for breast cancer survivors was nearly 2 times that of women who had not had cancer. In addition, risk of preterm birth was 60% higher for women with Hodgkin lymphoma, and the risk was increased approximately twofold in women with non-Hodgkin lymphoma.


1. Anderson C, Engel SM, Mersereau JE, et al. Birth outcomes among adolescent and young adult cancer survivors. JAMA Oncol. 2017 Mar 23. doi: 10.1001/jamaoncol.2017.0029 [Epub ahead of print]