Lymphoblastic lymphoma following prenatal exposure to phenytoin

J Pediatr Hematol Oncol. 1996 May;18(2):241-3. doi: 10.1097/00043426-199605000-00033.


Purpose: Oncogenesis has been associated with prenatal exposure to phenytoin, concomitant with or independent of the fetal hydantoin syndrome. The majority of reported cases have been embryonal tumors of neural crest origin and have occurred in the first 3 years of life.

Patients and methods: We report a boy who was exposed to phenytoin throughout gestation and later developed T-lymphocyte lymphoblastic lymphoma, a previously unreported malignancy associated with in utero phenytoin exposure. Previously reported cases of neoplasia occurring after such exposure are tabulated.

Conclusion: The actual transplacental oncogenic potential of phenytoin and the epidemiology of this association are poorly understood. Phenytoin-induced alterations in lymphocyte-mediated immunosurveillance or oxidative metabolic clearance may be etiologic. Inquiry into prenatal phenytoin exposure should be done in any child who develops cancer, especially those who develop a rare tumor or present with a more common tumor at an unusually young age. Continued documentation of such cases will advance the understanding of phenytoin-associated transplacental oncogenesis.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anticonvulsants / adverse effects*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Phenytoin / adverse effects*
  • Precursor Cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia-Lymphoma / chemically induced*
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects*


  • Anticonvulsants
  • Phenytoin