When kids were diagnosed of having some kind of cancer at age 18 or younger, the risk to their parents, siblings, or children for childhood cancer doubled, claims a study.
The study, led by Joshua Schiffman, M.D., medical director of Huntsman Cancer Institute's High Risk Pediatric Cancer Clinic and a pediatric hematologist/oncologist in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Utah, examined the family medical history of 4,482 children diagnosed with cancer over a 43-year period to determine the cancer risk in their relatives.
The research team found that if the cancer diagnosis came when the child was age 4 or less, the risk to close relatives for childhood cancer increased almost four times.
Lead author Karen Curtin, Ph.D., a genetic epidemiologist and UPDB assistant director, said that because the data came from the UPDB, the assessment of family history in our study does not rely on self- or family-reported medical history.
She said that self-reporting of family medical history depends on an individual's memory, while their data comes from the statewide Utah Cancer Registry that records nearly all cancer cases, which reduces possible errors in reporting family cancers.
The team also assessed known inherited genetic syndromes in adult relatives of pediatric cancer patients. They found cancers associated with Li-Fraumeni Syndrome (LFS) seemed to be driving the increased risk to relatives in families with a history of cancer.
Schiffman said that not all children's cancers are hereditary but the numbers in the study suggest that the proportion of hereditary childhood cancers may be significantly higher than the 5-10 percent generally cited in adult hereditary cancers, and likely even more than 20 percent.
The data analyzed in this study indicated that outcomes for pediatric cancer patients are worse in families with a history of cancer.
The findings have been published online in the International Journal of Cancer.