Maternal Obesity Influences Risk of Childhood Leukemia

Obesity is a known risk factor for cancer and obese patients are far more likely to develop bowel, kidney, ovarian, and liver cancers compared to individuals at a healthy weight. However, the impact of obesity on childhood cancer risk is not known. While early life exposures can vastly influence a person’s chance of developing cancer, both as a child and throughout their lifespan, the direct correlation between a mother’s prepregnancy weight and the risk of cancer in their offspring is unclear. In a study published recently in the American Journal of Epidemiology, investigators sought to determine the link between maternal obesity and childhood leukemia by analyzing data from 1,827,875 infants born between 2003 and 2016 registered with the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

Among the children examined, 2,353 developed any form of cancer and 747 developed leukemia by age 14. Children born to women with a body mass index (BMI) greater than 40 had a 57% higher risk of developing leukemia compared to children born to women with a normal BMI. Other factors associated with increased rates of childhood leukemia included older maternal age and white race. However, even when adjusted for these factors, there was still a significant association between maternal obesity and risk of leukemia. Other factors, including marital status, health insurance, public assistance, and smoking were not associated with increased risk of developing cancer. A similar association was found between the mothers’ prepregnancy weight and risk of neuroblastoma among their children.

Newborns who were ³ 30% larger than expected had a 116% increase in risk of childhood cancer and a 84% higher risk of leukemia. Smaller babies who were < 30% below the expected size also had increased cancer rates compared to normal sized newborns (P < .0001). Adjustment for maternal weight did not impact the increased cancer risk observed in larger and smaller newborns.

The investigators concluded that these data support a link between maternal obesity and risk of childhood leukemia and that may be used to influence health and weight loss initiatives, particularly in women of childbearing age, in the future. However, future studies will be needed to confirm these findings.

Read more about this on Medscape Oncology

Am J Epidemiol. 2019 May 20. [Epub ahead of print.]

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