Patterns of risk of hereditary retinoblastoma and applications to genetic counselling

Br J Cancer. 1992 Jul;66(1):211-9. doi: 10.1038/bjc.1992.244.


A registry including information about nearly 1,600 cases of retinoblastoma diagnosed in Britain has been created at the Childhood Cancer Research Group. Cases have been classified as 'old germ cell mutation', 'new germ cell mutation' or 'sporadic non-hereditary'. For a population-based group of 918 cases diagnosed between 1962 and 1985 we have calculated the proportions of unilateral/bilateral and hereditary/non-hereditary cases. Bilateral cases represent 40% of the total number over this period; the proportion known to be hereditary is 44%, a higher proportion than has been reported elsewhere. By following up selected groups of cases, an estimate has been made of the proportions of siblings of retinoblastoma patients and offspring of survivors from retinoblastoma who are themselves affected with the disease. Where there is no previous family history, the risk for siblings of retinoblastoma patients of developing the disease is approximately 2% if the disease in the affected child is bilateral and 1% if it is unilateral, assuming that there are no other siblings; if there are unaffected siblings the risks for subsequent children are lower. Children of patients with hereditary retinoblastoma have a one in two chance of carrying the germ cell mutation and for those who are carriers the probability of developing retinoblastoma is very close to the accepted figure of 90% if the parents have bilateral retinoblastoma but probably less if they have the unilateral form. For children of patients not known to be carriers, the probability of developing retinoblastoma is estimated to be about 1%, considerably lower than the previously accepted figure of about 5%. Retinoblastoma kindreds consist mainly of bilateral cases but there is evidence that some kindreds have a high proportion of unilateral cases. The ways in which these findings may be used in conjunction with modern techniques of molecular biology for prenatal and postnatal genetic counselling are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Eye Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Eye Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Genetic Counseling*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Infant
  • Mutation
  • Probability
  • Registries
  • Retinoblastoma / epidemiology
  • Retinoblastoma / genetics*
  • Risk Factors
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology