Maternal obesity may increase childhood cancer risk

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Maternal obesity may increase childhood cancer risk

The scientists found that children born to mothers with severe obesity (BMI greater than 40) had a 57% higher risk of leukaemia.

Scientists at the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center at the University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA, have established a link between severe obesity during pregnancy and a risk of developing cancer in children under 5 years of age.

Their research was published in the American Journal of Epidemiology. Shaina Stacy-principal investigator of the study- and her team examined nearly 2 million birth certificates and about 3,000 cancer registration registries filed in the State of Pennsylvania between 2003 and 2016.

"We examined whether maternal anthropometric characteristics derived from birth certificates were associated with an increased risk of subsequent cancer development in children, which takes into account established risk factors for both mother and infant," the researchers explained.

The analysis covered 1,827,875 infants, including 2,352 children diagnosed with cancer and 747 with leukaemia before the age of 14. The scientists found that children born to mothers with severe obesity (BMI greater than 40) had a 57% higher risk of leukaemia before the age of 5 years. Weight and height were also individually associated with an increased risk of leukemia.

In this study, the higher the mother's BMI, the higher the cancer rate among their children. "So even small amounts of weight loss can result in a real reduction in risk," says Shaina Stacy.

According to the authors of the study, these results suggest that early exposure to factors related to maternal obesity and fetal growth plays an important role in childhood cancer development.

"We are dealing with an obesity epidemic in this country[United States]. From a prevention perspective, maintaining a healthy weight is not only good for the mother, but also for children," says Jian-Min Yuan, Professor of Epidemiology at Pitt Public Health and co-leader of the Epidemiology and Cancer Prevention Program at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center.

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