Study suggests possible link between childhood cancer and birthmarks

June 5, 2007

Minneapolis - A University of Minnesota study suggests there may be a link between childhood cancer and birthmarks, Reuters Health reports.

Minneapolis - A University of Minnesota study suggests there may be a link between childhood cancer and birthmarks, Reuters Health reports.

The study, which appeared in a recent issue of Pediatrics, says minor malformations such as birthmarks may reflect what the authors called “altered prenatal development,” which in turn could also increase the risk of developing cancer. The study also notes that children with certain forms of leukemia and soft-tissue tumors have been shown to have “a significant increased frequency of birthmarks.”

The researchers used data from a cohort of 49,503 children born between 1959 and 1966. Birthmarks were documented as definite or suspected during the first year of life and included strawberry birthmarks, port-wine stains, pigmented moles and café-au-lait spots. Overall, 2,505 children had a documented definite or suspected birthmark, and of the entire group, 47 children were diagnosed with cancer before they were eight years old. Of the latter group, seven had a definite or suspected birthmark.

When all cancers were included, having a birthmark was associated with a threefold increased likelihood of developing cancer, the study notes, adding that birthmarks did not appear to be associated with any specific type of childhood cancer.

The study concludes that because of the small number of cancer cases, there is the possibility that the findings could be coincidental. The authors write, however, that the study results could lead to insights into the cause of childhood malignancies.