Medication use during pregnancy and the risk of childhood cancer in the offspring

Eur J Pediatr. 2007 May;166(5):433-41. doi: 10.1007/s00431-006-0401-z. Epub 2007 Mar 8.


The young age at onset of many cancers in childhood has led to investigations on maternal exposures during pregnancy. Data from a population-based case-control study in Germany (1992-1997) that included 1,867 cases and 2,057 controls was used to investigate this question. Maternal use of vitamin, folate or iron supplementation was associated with a reduced risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma and tumors and, less clearly, with leukemia, but not with CNS tumors. An increased risk of neuroblastoma was associated most markedly with diuretics and other antihypertensives, but also with vitamin, folate or iron supplementation. No associations were seen with pain relievers, antinauseants or cold medications, nor with delivery by Caesarian section. The strengths of this study are its population base, the large number of cases and the inclusion of different case groups to identify disease specificity of associations. The limitation of this study is an exposure assessment relying on maternal self-reports. In conclusion, these data indicate a potential influence of some maternal medication during pregnancy on the risk of childhood cancer in the offspring; however, no clear picture is seen.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age of Onset
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Drug-Related Side Effects and Adverse Reactions*
  • Female
  • Germany / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Maternal Exposure
  • Maternal-Fetal Exchange
  • Neoplasms / chemically induced*
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects*
  • Risk Factors