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New UNC study suggests multivitamin use during pregnancy cuts childhood tumor risk

CHAPEL HILL -- The largest epidemiologic study ever conducted in North America of a childhood nervous system cancer known as neuroblastoma suggests women who take multivitamins during pregnancy can cut their children's risk of the tumor by 30 percent to 40 percent.

Researchers could not pinpoint which vitamin or vitamins were most responsible for the reduced risk, but say their findings support and are consistent with earlier studies indicating vitamin use during pregnancy seems to help protect against childhood leukemias and brain tumors.

A report on the study, conducted chiefly at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, appears in the September issue of Epidemiology, a scientific journal. Researchers at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas in Houston, the U.T. Health Science Center in San Antonio and the University of Minnesota also helped with the study.

"Neuroblastoma is a peripheral nervous system tumor in children," said Dr. Andrew F. Olshan, professor of epidemiology at the UNC School of Public Health and a member of the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. "It is the most common tumor diagnosed in infants and is usually diagnosed in children under age 3. Typically, fewer than 50 percent of affected patients live five years following diagnosis."

Olshan and colleagues identified 538 children with neuroblastoma in 139 U.S. and Canadian hospitals that belong to the Children's Oncology Group, a collaborative group of health centers that conduct treatment and epidemiologic studies of childhood cancer. Through random digit telephone dialing, they also selected 504 comparable "control" subject children without the illness.

Researchers then interviewed mothers of both groups to learn about their vitamin use before, during and after pregnancy and other possible health- and illness-related factors. They also adjusted for as many potentially confounding factors as they could -- such as education and income -
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Contact: David Williamson
919-962-8596
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
29-Aug-2002


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