The following is a summary of “Long-Term Morbidity and Mortality in Children After In Utero Exposure to Maternal Cancer” published in the December 2022 issue of Oncology by Greiber et al.


The child’s short- and long-term health and development may be impacted by the mother’s cancer exposure and cancer treatment while she is still a fetus. For a study, researchers sought to determine the short- and long-term somatic and psychological effects on children exposed to uterine cancer.

Between January 1978 and December 2018, the countrywide cohort research identified every liveborn infant in Denmark. In a subgroup analysis, exposure to chemotherapy while pregnant was also considered part of the definition of exposure. The three major results of interest were total mortality, somatic diagnoses, and psychiatric diagnoses found in the National Health Registers. Follow-up began at birth and terminated in 2018 at a specific event, death, emigration, or other major life change. Using Cox regression analysis, endpoint hazard ratios adjusted for probable covariates were calculated.

In utero exposure to mother, cancer occurred in 690 (0.03%) of the 2,526,163 liveborn children that were included. Children exposed in utero did not have a greater risk of congenital malformations, overall somatic/psychiatric illness, or higher overall mortality compared to unexposed babies, as measured by an adjusted hazard ratio of 0.8 (95% CI, 0.4 to 1.5). From 2002 to 2018, 42 (12.5%) of the 378 (0.03%) children exposed to cancer in utero also received chemotherapy. When compared to in-utero exposure to maternal cancer without chemotherapy, among these 42 offspring, in-utero exposure to chemotherapy was not linked to any specific somatic illnesses or congenital abnormalities.

Overall, the results showed no evidence of an elevated risk of mortality or serious morbidity among children exposed to cancer during pregnancy. Childhood poor health outcomes were not linked to fetal chemotherapy exposure.

Reference: ascopubs.org/doi/full/10.1200/JCO.22.00599