Being Born With Birth Defects Increases Cancer Risks: Study

The findings of a new study suggest children with major birth defects may face an increased risk of a cancer diagnosis later in life.

According to European Union researchers, children born with both chromosomal and non-chromosomal defects are more likely to be diagnosed with cancer both during childhood and as adults, but those born with chromosomal defects face the highest risks; more than five times that of children born without birth defects.

Chromosomal defects occur due to abnormalities in the child’s chromosomes, which contain the genetic coding that determine things such as eye color, skin color, and which factor into things such as height and intelligence. Some are inherited from parents, most, like Down syndrome, are not. Non-chromosomal defects occur due to a variety of other factors, like medication side effects.

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In a study published last week in the medical journal The BMJ, researchers looked at data on more than 62,000 cancer cases and compared them to nearly 750,000 people born with major birth defects in Nordic countries such as Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden.

According to the findings, the risk of cancer was increased by about 75% for anyone born with major birth defects. However, those with non-chromosomal birth defects only saw a 54% increase, while those with chromosomal anomalies faced more than five and a half times the risk of cancer.

“Many structural birth defects were associated with later cancer in the same organ system or anatomical location, such as defects of the eye, nervous system, and urinary organs,” the researchers warned. “The increased risk of cancer in individuals with birth defects persisted into adulthood, both for non-chromosomal and chromosomal anomalies, Further studies on the molecular mechanisms involved are warranted.”

A study by Baylor College of Medicine researchers in June 2019 came to similar conclusions about the link between birth defects and cancer, finding that the risk of developing certain cancers was increased by two to 12 times if children were born with certain types of birth defects.

The older study found that children with chromosomal birth defects, such as Down’s syndrome, are 11 times more likely to be diagnosed with cancer. Those with non-chromosomal defects faced a 2.5 to four-fold increase in cancer risks, those researchers determined.

About three percent of children born in the Nordic countries that participated in this latest study have major birth defects, researchers noted.

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