Association Between Neonatal Phototherapy Exposure and Childhood Neoplasm

J Pediatr. 2022 Jun;245:111-116. doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2022.01.046. Epub 2022 Feb 1.


Objective: To study the association between phototherapy for the treatment of neonatal jaundice and the risk of childhood neoplasms.

Study design: This population-based retrospective cohort study included all infants born at ≥32 weeks of gestation at a single medical center between 1988 and 2018. The incidence of neoplastic diseases was compared between infants exposed to phototherapy and those unexposed. Kaplan-Meier curves and log-rank tests were used for cumulative incidence comparison, and multivariable Cox and Weibull survival analysis were used to adjust for confounding or clinically significant variables.

Results: The study population included 342 172 infants, of whom 18 797 (5.5%) were exposed to phototherapy. The median duration of follow-up was 9.5 years (range, birth to 18 years). Phototherapy was associated with a significantly increased risk for childhood malignancies and benign tumors (preterm birth and maternal age-adjusted hazard ratio, 1.89 [95% CI, 1.35-2.67] for malignancies and 1.27 [95% CI, 1.02-1.57] for benign tumors) Specifically, phototherapy was associated with hematopoietic cancers and leukemia (hazard ratio, 2.29 [95% CI, 1.48-3.54; P < .01] for hematopoietic cancers and 2.51 [95% CI, 1.52-4.14; P < .001] for leukemia), but not with solid tumors and lymphoma.

Conclusions: Phototherapy may be associated with a slightly increased childhood risk of neoplasm. It is important to strictly follow phototherapy treatment guidelines to minimize unnecessary exposure.

Keywords: childhood benign tumors; childhood malignancy; hyperbilirubinemia; neonatal jaundice.

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hyperbilirubinemia, Neonatal* / therapy
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Jaundice, Neonatal* / epidemiology
  • Jaundice, Neonatal* / etiology
  • Jaundice, Neonatal* / therapy
  • Leukemia* / etiology
  • Neoplasms* / epidemiology
  • Neoplasms* / etiology
  • Neoplasms* / therapy
  • Phototherapy / adverse effects
  • Premature Birth* / etiology
  • Retrospective Studies