Background: From 1993 to 1997 we conducted two population-based case-control studies on childhood cancer and a variety of potential risk factors in Germany. One case group involved children under the age of 15 years having a tumor of the central nervous system (CNS).
Procedure: For both studies, one conducted in the northwestern area of Germany, the other covering the whole of West Germany, incident cases were identified from the nationwide German Childhood Cancer Registry, and controls were randomly selected from complete population registration files.
Results: In total 466 pediatric CNS tumor cases and 2,458 controls were available for analyses. We observed only few positive associations, namely, between CNS tumors and low birth weight [<2,500 g; odds ratio (OR), 1.73; 95% confidence interval (CI), 1.06-2.84], between ependymoma and maternal smoking during pregnancy (>10 cigarettes per day: OR, 4.71; 95% CI, 1.69-13.1), and between astrocytoma and exposure to wood preservatives (OR, 1.91; 95% CI, 1.22-3.01). CNS tumors were not associated with high birth weight, duration of breast feeding, maternal age at time of delivery, duration of gestation, previous fetal losses, paternal smoking during pregnancy, maternal alcohol consumption, the child's exposure to pesticides, maternal diagnostic X-ray examinations during pregnancy, X-ray examinations of the child, or exposure to residential magnetic fields.
Conclusions: Despite the large study population, we found only few factors that were associated with CNS tumors or one of the morphological subgroups. Therefore, our results suggest that aspects of the prenatal and neonatal period play only a minor role in the etiology of pediatric CNS tumors.