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Birth Defects Seem Rare in Kids of Childhood Cancer Survivors
Date:12/13/2011

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Dec. 12 (HealthDay News) -- Children of parents who survived childhood cancer are unlikely to suffer from birth defects, finds a new study that should allay some concerns about long-term effects of treatment.

It appears that DNA damage done by chemotherapy and radiation of the reproductive organs doesn't increase the risk that children will inherit those damaged genes, researchers say.

"We found that DNA damage from radiation and chemotherapy with alkylating agents are not associated with the risk of genetic birth defects in the offspring," said lead researcher Lisa Signorello, an associate professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.

"This is really reassuring," she said. "This is one less thing for childhood cancer survivors to worry about." The prevalence of birth defects among the children of cancer survivors is similar to that of the general population, added Signorello, who's also a senior epidemiologist at the International Epidemiology Institute in Rockville, Md.

While life-saving in many cases, radiotherapy and chemotherapy with alkylating agents, such as busulfan, cyclophosphamide and dacarbazine, can damage DNA.

Signorello noted that childhood cancer survivors have a higher rate of infertility and a greater risk of having miscarriage, preterm birth and low birth-weight infants.

Although cancer treatment can cause DNA damage to the sperm and eggs, "it may be that these damages get filtered out," she said.

Genetic-based birth defects are rare, accounting for about 3 percent of births. Although earlier research found little or no increased risk for birth defects among the children of cancer survivors, the studies were small in size and lacked detailed data about radiation and chemotherapy, such as radiation doses to the testes and ovaries, the researchers noted.

The report was published in the Dec. 12 issue of
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