Original Paper

Cancer Causes & Control

, Volume 24, Issue 2, pp 391-402

Parental alcohol consumption and risk of childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia and brain tumors

  • Elizabeth MilneAffiliated withTelethon Institute for Child Health Research, Centre for Child Health Research, University of Western Australia Email author 
  • , Kathryn R. GreenopAffiliated withTelethon Institute for Child Health Research, Centre for Child Health Research, University of Western Australia
  • , Rodney J. ScottAffiliated withFaculty of Health, Hunter Medical Research Institute, School of Biomedical Sciences, University of NewcastleHunter Area Pathology Service, HNEHealth
  • , Nicholas H. de KlerkAffiliated withTelethon Institute for Child Health Research, Centre for Child Health Research, University of Western Australia
  • , Carol BowerAffiliated withTelethon Institute for Child Health Research, Centre for Child Health Research, University of Western Australia
  • , Lesley J. AshtonAffiliated withChildren’s Cancer Institute Australia for Medical Research, Lowy Cancer Research Centre, University of New South Wales
  • , John A. HeathAffiliated withChildren’s Cancer Centre, Royal Children’s HospitalDepartment of Paediatrics, University of Melbourne
  • , Bruce K. ArmstrongAffiliated withSydney School of Public Health, University of Sydney

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Abstract

Purpose

Childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is the most common childhood malignancy and brain tumors (CBTs) are the leading cause of cancer death in children. In our Australian case–control studies of these cancers, we investigated whether parental alcohol consumption before or during pregnancy was associated with risk.

Methods

Cases were identified through the ten Australian pediatric oncology centers, and controls were recruited through national random-digit dialling. Detailed information on alcohol consumption, including beverage type, amount, and timing, was collected from 690 case families (388 ALL and 302 CBT) and 1,396 control families. Data were analyzed using unconditional logistic regression.

Results

We found no evidence that maternal alcohol use before or during pregnancy was associated with an increased risk of either cancer; rather, there was evidence of inverse associations, particularly with wine. For both cancers, we observed U-shaped associations with paternal alcohol consumption in the year before the pregnancy, possibly driven by reduced risk at moderate levels of beer and wine intake and increased risk associated with high levels of beer intake. Moderate intake of spirits by fathers was associated with an increased risk of CBT but not ALL. These findings would be strengthened by corroboration in other studies. While the inverse associations with wine may be interesting mechanistically, the public health message remains that maternal alcohol use during pregnancy causes serious disorders in the offspring and should be avoided.

Conclusions

Our findings suggest that men, as well as women, should limit their alcohol intake when planning a pregnancy.

Keywords

Alcohol Leukemia Brain tumors Childhood Epidemiology Neoplasms Pregnancy