Birth seasonality of childhood central nervous system tumors: Analysis of primary data from 16 Southern-Eastern European population-based registries

Int J Cancer. 2020 Sep 1;147(5):1252-1263. doi: 10.1002/ijc.32875. Epub 2020 Feb 15.


Season of birth, a surrogate of seasonal variation of environmental exposures, has been associated with increased risk of several cancers. In the context of a Southern-Eastern Europe (SEE) consortium, we explored the potential association of birth seasonality with childhood (0-14 years) central nervous system (CNS) tumors. Primary CNS tumor cases (n = 6,014) were retrieved from 16 population-based SEE registries (1983-2015). Poisson regression and meta-analyses on birth season were performed in nine countries with available live birth data (n = 4,987). Subanalyses by birth month, age, gender and principal histology were also conducted. Children born during winter were at a slightly increased risk of developing a CNS tumor overall [incidence rate ratio (IRR): 1.06, 95% confidence intervals (CI): 0.99-1.14], and of embryonal histology specifically (IRR: 1.13, 95% CI: 1.01-1.27). The winter peak of embryonal tumors was higher among boys (IRR: 1.24, 95% CI: 1.05-1.46), especially during the first 4 years of life (IRR: 1.33, 95% CI: 1.03-1.71). In contrast, boys <5 years born during summer seemed to be at a lower risk of embryonal tumors (IRR: 0.73, 95% CI: 0.54-0.99). A clustering of astrocytomas was also found among girls (0-14 years) born during spring (IRR: 1.23, 95% CI: 1.03-1.46). Although the present exploratory results are by no means definitive, they provide some indications for age-, gender- and histology-related seasonal variations of CNS tumors. Expansion of registration and linkage with cytogenetic reports could refine if birth seasonality is causally associated with CNS tumors and shed light into the complex pathophysiology of this lethal disease.

Keywords: central nervous system tumors; childhood; epigenetics; perinatal origin; population-based cancer registries; season of birth; seasonality.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Astrocytoma / epidemiology
  • Astrocytoma / pathology
  • Central Nervous System Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Central Nervous System Neoplasms / pathology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Europe / epidemiology
  • Europe, Eastern / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Neoplasms, Germ Cell and Embryonal / epidemiology
  • Neoplasms, Germ Cell and Embryonal / pathology
  • Parturition
  • Registries / statistics & numerical data*
  • Risk
  • Seasons