Female childhood cancer survivors may face pregnancy problems, including early deliveries and low birth weight children, according to a study in the October 19 Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
New therapies for childhood cancer patients have increased survival, but many scientists are concerned about the long-term effects of the treatments, particularly for patients exposed to radiation and chemotherapy.
Lisa B. Signorello, Sc.D., of the International Epidemiology Institute in Rockville, Md., and colleagues assessed the records of 1,264 female participants in the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study and their 2,201 children. They compared them with 601 cancer-free siblings of survivors and their 1,175 children. The authors assessed possible long-term effects from treatment, such as preterm births, low birth weight, and having babies who were small for their gestational age.
The authors found that survivors' children were more likely than those of siblings to be born early or underweight. The risk was highest when a survivor had their uterus exposed to pelvic radiation as a child.
"Radiotherapy to the pelvis may raise the risks of both preterm birth and restricted fetal growth," they write.
In an accompanying editorial, Leslie Schover, Ph.D., of the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, discusses the study and the overall interest in preserving fertility for childhood cancer survivors. "Given the complex terrain our young survivors need to traverse, we should design patient and professional education materials that map out the paths to making informed decisions."