Researchers from Perth’s Telethon Institute for Child Health Research are calling for further investigation into a potential link between maternal smoking and childhood brain tumours. It follows the results of a new study which showed a possible connection between maternal smoking and increased risk of brain tumours in very young children.
The research, led by the Telethon Institute’s Professor Elizabeth Milne and recently published in the International Journal of Cancer, used data collected from the Australia Study of Childhood Brain Tumours to investigate whether parental smoking could be linked to the development of the disease in children.
While the study backed up previous research showing little evidence between the two overall, it did indicate that maternal smoking before or during pregnancy could lead to an increased risk of childhood brain tumours in children less than 2 years of age.
“The research showed that in children under 24 months the chances of developing childhood brain tumours if the mother smoked before or during pregnancy increased almost five-fold,” said lead author Professor Elizabeth Milne.
“However we need to realise when drawing conclusions that the research was based on a small sample group of just over 300 families and further comprehensive studies are now needed.”
Brain tumours are the leading causes of cancer death in children yet their origins are largely unknown. The study team decided to investigate any potential links between parental smoking and childhood brain tumours given that tobacco smoke contains 61 known carcinogens and increases the risk of several adult cancers.
“Animal studies have shown that the developing brain is much more likely to develop tumours as a result of exposure to neurocarcinogens in the womb than later in life,” Professor Milne said.
“This could explain why the increased risk was seen in very young children, but clearly there is more work to do before we can draw that conclusion.”