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Morphological Abnormalities Linked to Pediatric Cancer

Study identifies two patterns of abnormalities that suggest new tumor predisposition syndromes

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 2 (HealthDay News) -- Pediatric cancer patients have significantly more morphological abnormalities than children who don't have cancer, researchers report in the Jan. 2 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Johannes H.M. Merks, M.D., Ph.D., of the Emma Children's Hospital in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and colleagues conducted body surface examinations of 898 long-term survivors of childhood cancer, 175 newly diagnosed pediatric cancer patients and 1,007 controls. Morphological abnormalities were divided into major abnormalities and minor anomalies; abnormalities possibly caused by pre-existing cancer or cancer treatment were excluded. To prevent bias introduced by race, only white patients and controls were included.

Major morphological abnormalities were observed in 26.8 percent of cancer patients versus 15.5 percent of controls. Minor anomalies were observed in 65.1 percent of patients versus 56.2 of controls. Three or more minor anomalies were detected in 15.2 percent of patients versus 8.3 percent of controls. Multiple logistic regression analysis showed 14 morphological abnormalities that were independently and significantly associated with childhood cancer. Two patterns of co-occurring morphological abnormalities, blepharophimosis and asymmetric lower limbs, were identified that suggested new tumor predisposition syndromes.

"We conclude that the high incidence of single and combined morphological abnormalities in pediatric patients with cancer indicates that constitutional genetic defects play a more important role in pediatric oncogenesis than is currently estimated," the authors write.

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