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Leukemia risk after maternal contraception use

Hargreave M et al. Lancet Oncol. 2018 Sep 6. doi: 10.1016/S1470-2045(18)30479-0

Key clinical point: Recent hormonal contraceptive use may slightly increase risk for certain leukemias in offspring.

Major finding: Recent maternal hormonal contraceptive use was linked to one additional case of leukemia per 47,170 children.

Study details: Danish nationwide cohort study in 1,185,157 children.

Disclosures: The study was supported by the Danish Cancer Research Foundation and other foundations. One author reported grants from the sponsoring foundations and another author reported speaking fees from Jazz Pharmaceuticals and Shire Pharmaceuticals

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Hargreave M et al. Lancet Oncol. 2018 Sep 6. doi: 10.1016/S1470-2045(18)30479-0.


Estrogenic compounds could have a number of effects on the genomic machinery, that could in turn lead to an increased risk of leukemia in offspring. It may be that oral contraceptives cause epigenetic changes to fetal hematopoietic stem cells that lead to gene rearrangements and oxidative damage, which could then influence the risk of developing childhood leukemia.

This study opens a new avenue of investigation for a risk factor that might increase a child’s susceptibility to leukemia and is important in shedding more light on dose-response associations of exposures.

Dr. Maria S. Pombo-de-Oliveira is from the pediatric hematology-oncology research program at the Instituto Nacional de Câncer in Rio de Janeiro. These comments are adapted from an accompanying editorial (Lancet Oncol. 2018 Sep 6. doi: 10.1016/S1470-2045[18]30509-6). Dr. Pombo-de-Oliveira reported having no conflicts of interest.