Prenatal exposure to maternal cancer, with or without treatment, had no effect on cognitive, cardiac, or general development of children in early childhood, according to an article published online in The New England Journal of Medicine.1

Long-term outcome data on children who were exposed to prenatal maternal cancer are lacking. Investigators conducted a multicenter case-control study where children whose mothers were diagnosed with cancer during pregnancy were compared with children of mothers who were not.

A total of 129 children (median age 22 months; range 12 to 42) were included in the prenatal-exposure group, with a matching number in the control group. During pregnancy, 96 children (74.4%) were exposed to chemotherapy, 11 children (8.5%) were exposed to radiotherapy, 13 children (10.9%) were exposed to surgery alone, and 2 children (1.6%) to other drug treatments.

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Results showed that the birth weight was below the 10th percentile in 28 of 127 children (22.0%) in the prenatal-exposure group and in 19 of 125 children (15.2%) in the control group (P=0.16).

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Cognitive development on the basis of the Bayley score did not differ between the groups (P=0.08). Cognitive outcome for both groups was correlated with gestational age at birth.

There were normal cardiac findings among 47 children who were evaluated at 36 months. Prematurity was linked to a worse outcome, independent of prenatal exposure to cancer.


  1. Amant F, Vandenbroucke T, Verheecke M, et al. Pediatric outcome after maternal cancer diagnosed during pregnancy. [published online ahead of print September 28, 2015]. N Engl J Med. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa1508913.