Department of Public Health Sciences

The role of family history in risk of childhood brain tumors

Gold EB, Leviton A, Lopez R, Austin DF, Gilles FH, Hedley-Whyte ET, Kolonel LN, Lyon JL, Swanson GM, Weiss NS, et al

Cancer. 1994. 73(4):1302-1311.

BACKGROUND. Although brain tumors are the second most frequent malignancy in children, relatively little is known about the role of family history in risk of these tumors. METHODS. Children under the age of 18 years (n = 361) in whom primary brain tumors were diagnosed were identified from eight United States population-based Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results registries and compared to matched controls (n = 1083) identified by random-digit dialing. Information regarding family history of birth defects or tumors was obtained, along with data on other potential risk factors, from interviews with the mothers and fathers of the index children. RESULTS. No significant differences were found in family history of epilepsy. However, moderate elevations in risk were observed for a history of birth defects in maternal relatives, particularly for female propositi. Significantly more mothers (odds ratio [OR] = 1.63, 95% confidence limits [CL] = 1.03, 2.57) and maternal female relatives (OR = 2.15, 95% CL = 1.14, 4.06) of cases than of controls were reported to have had birth defects. History of birth defects in maternal relatives was particularly associated with childhood brain tumors of 'other' (not astrocytoma or medulloblastoma) histologic type (OR = 2.37, 95% CL = 1.25, 4.53) and infratentorial tumors (OR = 1.76, 95% CL = 1.06, 2.93). Slight excesses of tumors were observed in paternal relatives of children with astrocytomas (OR = 1.43, 95% CL 0.93, 2.20) or with infratentorial tumors (OR = 1.46, 95% CL 0.97, 2.20). Risk of childhood brain tumors did not increase with the number of relatives affected with brain tumors, breast cancer, leukemia or lymphoma, soft tissue sarcomas, or all of these tumor types combined (the Li-Fraumeni syndrome). CONCLUSIONS. These findings suggest a modest increase in risk of childhood brain tumors associated with maternal family history of birth defects. Family history of tumors does not appear to contribute appreciably to an increased risk of brain tumors in children.

Keywords: Adolescence, Brain Neoplasms/epidemiology/*genetics, Case-Control Studies, Catchment Area (Health), Child, Child, Preschool, Data Collection, Female, Human, Infant, Male, Medical History Taking, Risk Factors, Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.



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