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J Toxicol Environ Health B Crit Rev. 2007 Jan-Mar;10(1-2):101-29.

Parental alcohol consumption and childhood cancers: a review.

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  • 1Department of Epidemiology, Biostatistics, and Occupational Health, Faculty of Medicine, McGill University, Montréal, Québec, Canada.


The etiology of childhood cancers remains generally unknown. Given that the metabolites of alcohol are likely carcinogens and that leukemia, the most frequent childhood cancer, can arise in utero, the study of alcohol consumption as a potential risk factor for the development of childhood cancer is justified. This article summarizes the epidemiological evidence on the association between parental exposure to alcohol and the risk of childhood cancers. To do this, a thorough search of the literature from 1960 to 2003 using the PubMed database was carried out. It yielded 33 case-control studies published between 1982 and 2003, including 13 studies that considered paternal exposure in the preconceptional period. In 10 of the 33 studies at least 1 statistically significant risk increase was reported in relation with parental alcohol consumption; in 7 of these studies the increase was related to maternal consumption, whereas in 3 studies, it was related to paternal consumption. The cancers most often found associated with parental drinking were leukemia, brain tumors, and neuroblastoma. A few studies also reported a protective effect with maternal exposure at modest levels. Inconsistencies in the results and the low risks reported do not suggest an association between childhood cancer and parental consumption of alcohol. However, before reaching any definitive conclusions, methodological issues need to be addressed in future studies, as well as the role of genetic susceptibility. Moreover, subtypes of specific cancers need to be studied separately.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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