Can a baby get cancer from a mom’s cervical tumor?

Credit: Mercury Press
Credit: Mercury Press

[Japanese] investigators describe lung cancer in two boys that “probably developed” from their respective mothers via vaginal transmission during birth.

“Transmission of maternal cancer to offspring is extremely rare and is estimated to occur in approximately 1 infant per every 500,000 mothers with cancer,” write Ayumu Arakawa, MD, of the National Cancer Center Hospital in Japan and colleagues in a paper published January 7 in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Previous cases, of which only 18 have been recorded, have been presumed to occur via transplacental transmission, they say.

In the two new cases, genetic analyses and other evidence suggest that both boys’ lung cancers developed after aspirating uterine cervical cancer tumor cells into their lungs during passage through the birth canal.

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The study authors propose, on the basis of their paper, that all women with cervical cancer should have a cesarean section.

But a US expert questioned this, and said the situation is “a bit nuanced.”

William Grobman, MD, of the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago, said the current standard recommendation for many pregnant women known to have cervical cancer is to have a cesarean section and that “the strength of the recommendation is dependent on factors such as stage and size.”

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