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Children and young adults with parents with cancer: a population-based study

Authors Syse A, Aas GB, Loge JH

Received 23 December 2011

Accepted for publication 31 January 2012

Published 13 March 2012 Volume 2012:4(1) Pages 41—52


Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 2

Video abstract presented by Astri Syse

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Astri Syse1, Gjøril B Aas1, Jon H Loge2,3
1Cancer Registry of Norway, 2Oslo University Hospital, 3University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway

Background: Today many people are choosing to have children later in life. Additionally, the use of sophisticated diagnostic tools and screening modalities has increased over recent years. Because of these factors, cancer is being diagnosed more frequently during the child-rearing years. Sociodemographic and cancer-related information on families and minor (0–18 years) and young adult (YA) (19–25 years) children experiencing parental cancer is scarce, but this information is vital for healthcare initiatives aimed toward those potentially adversely affected. Therefore, the aim of this study was to describe features of families and minor and YA children affected by parental cancer in a nationwide population.
Methods: Complete Norwegian birth cohort data were obtained from national registries. Descriptive prevalence and incidence statistics were collected for parents and minor and YA children. Logistic regression models were used to assess factors likely to influence parental death.
Results: Every year around 0.3% of all families with children under the age of 18 years encounter parental cancer, and 3.1% of minors and 8.4% of YAs have a parent who has been diagnosed with cancer. This study found skin, breast, testicular, and colorectal cancers were the most common forms of cancer diagnosed. The sociodemographic features of those affected were fairly similar to those of the general population. One in five children experienced parental death from cancer; parental death was more often paternal than maternal and was most common in parents diagnosed with leukemia or brain, colorectal, and lung tumors. Deaths are uncommon among parents without cancer.
Conclusion: Adequate assistance for minor and YA children affected by parental cancer requires knowledge of their number and characteristics. Parental cancer is more common than previously suggested: the annual incidence of parental cancer for children under 18 years of age is 0.3%, whereas approximately 4% of children aged 0–25 years have or have had parents diagnosed with cancer, corresponding to a population prevalence of 1.4%. Around 20% of these children experience parental death, and surveys of live respondents should account for this.

Keywords: incidence, neoplasm, parental cancer, prevalence, Norway

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