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Maternal Autoimmune Disease and Childhood Cancer Risk

Is there a link between mothers with an autoimmune disease and cancer in their children? A recent study from our CLIC partners, Drs. Johnni Hansen and Julia Heck, says yes. Autoimmune diseases – conditions that cause the body to attack its own cells, such as rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, Type-1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and scleroderma – can sometimes be triggered by hormonal shifts during pregnancy. Based on the analysis of a registry-based data set from Denmark, the research team found all types of maternal autoimmune diseases were associated with a risk of childhood cancer. The research showed an especially high risk in children of mothers with rheumatoid arthritis.

Since this study used registry-based data, it is more reliable than questionnaire-based, where there is often an issue with recall bias, social desirability bias, or sampling bias. CLIC has a mix of questionnaire- and registry-based studies, so we often separate our results by study design to gain insight into the extent of bias in questionnaire case-control studies. The article by Dr. Philip Lupo et al. (2023) is a clear example of how CLIC researchers report their findings and compare across study design. CLIC is grateful to have partners who work with powerful registry-based data, and hopes to add more registry-based studies to our group in the future. 

For more information and exact associations in Dr. Hansen and Dr. Heck’s study, see the reference below. 

Article Title: Maternal autoimmune disease and its association with childhood cancer: A population-based case-control study in Denmark

Authors: Orimoloye HT, Nguyen N, Deng C, Saechao C, Ritz B, Olsen J, Hansen J, Heck JE. 

Published In: EJC Paediatr Oncol. 2024 Jun;3:100145. doi: 10.1016/j.ejcped.2024.100145. Epub 2024 Jan 19. PMID: 38298419; PMCID: PMC10827341.