Delivery by caesarean section and childhood cancer: a nationwide follow-up study in three countries

BJOG. 2014 Oct;121(11):1343-50. doi: 10.1111/1471-0528.12667. Epub 2014 Feb 12.


Objective: To investigate the association between delivery by caesarean section and risk of childhood cancer.

Design: A population-based, follow-up study using register data from three countries.

Setting: Denmark, Sweden and Finland.

Population: Children born in Denmark (1973-2007), Sweden (1973-2006) and Finland (randomly selected sample of 90%, 1987-2007; n = 7,029,843).

Methods: Exposure was delivery by caesarean section and the outcome was childhood cancer diagnosis. Follow-up started from birth and ended at the first of the following dates: cancer diagnosis, death, emigration, day before 15th birthday or end of follow-up. Cox regression was used to obtain hazard ratios.

Main outcome measures: Childhood cancer diagnosis.

Results: A total of 882,907 (12.6%) children were delivered by caesarean section. Of these, 30.3% were elective (n = 267,603), 35.9% unplanned (n = 316,536) and 33.8% had no information on planning (n = 298,768). Altogether, 11,181 children received a cancer diagnosis. No evidence of an increased risk of childhood cancer was found for children born by caesarean section (hazard ratio, 1.05; 95% confidence interval, 0.99, 1.11). No association was found for any major type of childhood cancer, or when split by the type of caesarean section (elective/unplanned).

Conclusion: The evidence does not suggest that caesarean section is a risk factor for the overall risk of childhood cancer and possibly not for subtypes of childhood cancer either.

Keywords: Caesarean section; childhood cancer; follow-up studies; mode of delivery; risk.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cesarean Section / adverse effects
  • Cesarean Section / statistics & numerical data*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Denmark
  • Female
  • Finland
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Neoplasms / etiology
  • Pregnancy
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Risk Factors
  • Sweden