Parental occupation and childhood cancer: review of epidemiologic studies

Environ Health Perspect. 1990 Aug;88:325-37. doi: 10.1289/ehp.9088325.


Parental occupational exposures might affect childhood cancer in the offspring through genetic changes in the ovum or sperm or through transplacental carcinogenesis. The 24 published epidemiologic studies of this association have all used case-control designs, with controls generally selected from birth certificates or from general population sampling. Occupational exposures were inferred from job titles on birth certificates or through interviews. A large number of occupation-cancer associations have been reported, many of which were not addressed or not confirmed in other studies. Several associations have been found with consistency: paternal exposures in hydrocarbon-associated occupations, the petroleum and chemical industries, and especially paint exposures have been associated with brain cancer; paint exposures have also been linked to leukemias. Maternal exposures have received much less attention, but studies have yielded strongly suggestive results linking a variety of occupational exposures to leukemia and brain cancer. The primary limitations in this literature are the inaccuracy inherent in assigning exposure based on job title alone and imprecision due to limited study size. Although no etiologic associations have been firmly established by these studies, the public health concerns and suggestive data warrant continued research.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child
  • Epidemiologic Methods
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leukemia / epidemiology
  • Leukemia / etiology
  • Male
  • Maternal-Fetal Exchange
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Occupational Exposure
  • Occupations*
  • Parents
  • Pregnancy