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Childhood cancer survivors' exposure to chemotherapy, radiation does not increase risk of birth defects in their children
Date:12/12/2011

A large, retrospective study shows that children of childhood cancer survivors who received prior treatment involving radiation to testes or ovaries and/or chemotherapy with alkylating agents do not have an increased risk for birth defects compared to children of survivors who did not have such cancer treatment. The findings provide reassurance that increased risks of birth defects are unlikely for cancer survivors who are concerned about the potential effects of their treatment on their children, and can help guide family planning choices.

"We hope this study will become part of the arsenal of information used by the physicians of childhood cancer survivors if reproductive worries arise," said lead author Lisa Signorello, Sc.D., associate professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN, and senior epidemiologist at the International Epidemiology Institute in Rockville, MD. "Childhood cancer survivors face real reproductive concerns, including unknowns related to the effects of therapy. But, hopefully this study will provide some reassurance that their children are unlikely to be at increased risk for genetic defects stemming from their earlier treatment."

According to Signorello, childhood cancer patients frequently receive aggressive, though life-saving, radiation and chemotherapy treatments that can affect their ability to have children. For girls, radiation to the pelvis and the resulting damage to the uterus has been associated with a risk for pregnancy outcomes such as miscarriage and preterm birth, and effects on the ovaries can lead to infertility. Radiotherapy and chemotherapy with alkylating agents (e.g., busulphan, cyclophosphamide and dacarbazine) are DNA-damaging treatments, affecting both cancer and healthy cells. Studies to date have not adequately addressed the question of whether genetic damage from a parent's treatment could be passed down to their offspring. Genetic-based birth defects are rare in the gener
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Contact: Nicole Fernandes
nicole.fernandes@asco.org
571-483-1354
American Society of Clinical Oncology
Source:Eurekalert

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