The epidemiology of neonatal tumours: Report of an international working group

Moore S.W. ; Satge D. ; Sasco A.J. ; Zimmermann A. ; Plaschkes J. (2003)


Neonatal tumours occur every 12,500-27,500 live births and comprise 2% of childhood malignancies, but there is little clarity as to their real prevalence, sites of origin and pathological nature as reported series vary. As an entity, neonatal tumours provide a unique window of opportunity to study tumours in which minimal environmental interference has occurred. The majority of tumours present with a mass at birth (e.g., teratomas, neuroblastomas, mesoblastic nephroma, fibromatosis), which are not infrequently identified on antenatal ultrasound. Histologically, teratoma and neuroblastoma remain the two main tumour types encountered with soft tissue sarcoma, renal tumours, CNS tumours and leukaemia being the next most common tumour types identified. Malignant tumours are uncommon in the neonatal period per se and benign tumours may have malignant potential. A particular problem exists in clinical classification, as histological features of malignancy do not always correlate with clinical behaviour. Benign tumours may also be life threatening because of their size and location. Other tumours may demonstrate local invasiveness, but no metastatic potential, and tumours that are clearly malignant may demonstrate unpredictable or uncertain behaviour. Screening programmes have brought more tumours to light, but do not appear to affect the overall prognosis. They may provide clues to the stage at which tumours develop in foetu. The aetiology of cancer in children is multifactorial and includes both genetic and environmental factors. The association between congenital abnormalities and tumours is well established (15% of neonatal tumours). Genetic defects are highly likely in neonatal tumours and include those with a high risk of malignancy (e.g., retinoblastoma), but also genetically determined syndromes with an increased risk of malignancy and complex genetic rearrangements. Tumours are mostly genetically related at a cellular level and factors influencing cellular maturation or apoptosis within the developing foetus may continue to operate in the neonatal period. Cytogenetics of neonatal neoplasms appear to differ from neoplasms in older children, thus possibly explaining some of the observed differences in clinical behaviour. Certain constitutional chromosome anomalies, however, specifically favour tumuors occurring in the foetal and neonatal period. In support of this hypothesis, certain cytogenetic anomalies appear to be specific to neonates, and a number of examples are explored. Other environmental associations include ionizing radiation, drugs taken during pregnancy, infections, tumours in the mother and environmental exposure.

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