Objective: The aetiology of childhood cancer remains largely unknown but recent research indicates that uterine environment plays an important role. We aimed to examine the association between the Apgar score at 5 min after birth and the risk of childhood cancer.
Design: Nationwide population-based cohort study.
Setting: Nationwide register data in Denmark and Sweden.
Study population: All live-born singletons born in Denmark from 1978 to 2006 (N=1 771 615) and in Sweden from 1973 to 2006 (N=3 319 573). Children were followed up from birth to 14 years of age.
Main outcome measures: Rates and HRs for all childhood cancers and for specific childhood cancers.
Results: A total of 8087 children received a cancer diagnosis (1.6 per 1000). Compared to children with a 5-min Apgar score of 9-10, children with a score of 0-5 had a 46% higher risk of cancer (adjusted HR 1.46, 95% CI 1.15 to 1.89). The potential effect of low Apgar score on overall cancer risk was mostly confined to children diagnosed before 6 months of age. Children with an Apgar score of 0-5 had higher risks for several specific childhood cancers including Wilms' tumour (HR 4.33, 95% CI 2.42 to 7.73).
Conclusions: A low 5 min Apgar score was associated with a higher risk of childhood cancers diagnosed shortly after birth. Our data suggest that environmental factors operating before or during delivery may play a role on the development of several specific childhood cancers.