Cancer and chemotherapy before pregnancy do not increase the risk of stillbirth in adolescent girls and young women

Adolescent girls and young women who were diagnosed with cancer and received chemotherapy before pregnancy had no higher risk of stillbirth, according to research by Caitlin C. Murphy, PhD, MPH, with UTHealth Houston.

The study was recently published in the online version of Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

There are very few studies of childbirth outcomes among adolescent girls and young women with cancer who become pregnant later. This study revealed that cancer and chemotherapy do not appear to increase the risk of stillbirth, providing critical information for women who are concerned about their ability to have a healthy child after cancer.”

Caitlin C. Murphy, assistant professor of health promotion and behavioral sciences at UTHealth School of Public Health, Houston

For one of the research’s co-authors, Andrea C. Betts, PhD, MPH, the results were subjective.

“When I was pregnant with my first child, there was very little information about how my previous cancer treatment might affect my child,” said Bates, a researcher on the school’s Dallas campus. “All my OB can tell me is, ‘It’s plausible that there are increased risks. “It is very rewarding to begin to fill this gap in the evidence, and to provide some good news for the many young women seeking to have children after cancer.”

Some chemical and radiation treatments have toxic effects of gonadotoxes, which means they can damage the eggs. Previous studies have indicated that the health of the offspring may be affected. To test this theory, the study linked population data from the Texas Cancer Registry to certificates of live birth and fetal death. It included 11,696 births to 8,402 women aged 15 to 39 who were diagnosed with cancer from 1995 to 2015 and compared to the stillbirth rate in the general population. The rate of stillbirth in both groups was similar, less than 1%.

“It’s the best kind of blank score,” Murphy said.

Besides Bates, co-authors from the UTHealth School of Public Health included Marlyn A. Allicock, PhD, MPH, from the Dallas campus. to. Aubrey Shay, Ph.D., MSW, San Antonio campus; and Chris M. Preston, Ph.D., from the Houston campus.

They are all part of a team of researchers at the Adolescent and Youth (AYA) Training and Research Laboratory formed at UTHealth School of Public Health in 2020. Their expertise includes behavioral sciences, intervention development, epidemiology, program assessment and health disparities.

Other co-authors are Barbara A. Cohn received her Ph.D. from the Institute of Public Health in Berkeley, California. Philip C. Lupo, Ph.D., MPH, from Baylor College of Medicine; and Sandy L. Pruitt, Ph.D., MPH, of Southwestern Medical Center in Utah.


Journal reference:

Murphy, C. C., et al. (2022) Stillbirth after cancer of adolescents and young adults: a population study. Journal of the National Cancer Institute.