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Birth Defects Seem Rare in Kids of Childhood Cancer Survivors

December 14, 2011
By

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 the Journal of
Clinical Oncology
.

For the study, Signorello and colleagues collected data on more than
20,000 children who had survived cancer. The data were taken from the 1970
and 1986 Childhood Cancer Survivor Study. Fifty-seven percent of them had
been treated for leukemia or lymphoma.

The researchers also looked at the health of nearly 4,700 children of
these survivors.

Of the parents treated for cancer, 63 percent had radiation therapy and
44 percent of men and 50 percent of women had chemotherapy.

Among their children, 2.7 percent had at least one birth defect such as
Down syndrome, achondroplasia (dwarfism), or cleft lip.

Three percent of the mothers exposed to radiation or treated with
alkylating chemotherapy had a child with a genetic birth defect, compared
with 3.5 percent of mothers who survived cancer, but weren’t exposed to
these treatments, the researchers found.

Only 1.9 percent of children of the cancer-surviving fathers had these
birth defects, compared with 1.7 percent of children of fathers who did
not have chemotherapy or radiation, they said.

“This is very encouraging, because there has been a worry,” said Dr.
Michael Katz, senior vice president for research and global programs at
the March of Dimes.

Dr. Jeanette Falck Winther, a senior researcher at the Institute of
Cancer Epidemiology at the Danish Cancer Society in Copenhagen and
co-author of an accompanying journal editorial, said the study findings
should address some of the reproductive concerns of childhood cancer
survivors, geneticists and pediatric oncologists.

“Our hope is that this reassuring information will be used by the
physicians in counseling childhood cancer survivors who desire and are
able to have children,” she said.

More information

For more information on childhood cancer, visit the
American Cancer Society
.

Article source: http://news.yahoo.com/birth-defects-seem-rare-kids-childhood-cancer-survivors-000810960.html

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