(HealthDay News) — Prenatal exposure to maternal cancer with or without treatment does not impact early childhood development, according to a study published online September 28 in the New England Journal of Medicine. The research was published to coincide with the 2015 European Cancer Congress, held from September 25–29 in Vienna.

Frédéric Amant, MD, from the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Belgium, and colleagues conducted a multicenter case-control study involving 129 children whose mothers had cancer (prenatal-exposure group) with a matching number in a control group. Data regarding neonatal and general health were collected using a health questionnaire and medical files. Children were prospectively assessed at 18 months, 36 months, or both.

The researchers found that 74.4% of the children were exposed to chemotherapy, 8.5% to radiotherapy, 10.1% to surgery alone, 1.6% to other drug treatments, and 10.9% to no treatment during pregnancy. Birth weight was below the 10th percentile in 22.0 and 15.2% of the prenatal exposure and control groups, respectively (P=0.16). Cognitive development based on the Bayley score did not differ between the groups (P=0.08) or in subgroup analyses. In the two study groups, gestational age at birth correlated with cognitive outcome.

“Our data suggest that the diagnosis of cancer during pregnancy is not necessarily an indication to terminate the pregnancy,” the authors write.

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