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Br J Cancer. 2002 Apr 8;86(7):1070-7.

An infectious aetiology for childhood brain tumours? Evidence from space-time clustering and seasonality analyses.

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Cancer Research UK Paediatric & Familial Cancer Research Group, Central Manchester and Manchester Children's University Hospitals NHS Trust, Manchester M27 4HA, UK.


To investigate whether infections or other environmental exposures may be involved in the aetiology of childhood central nervous system tumours, we have analysed for space-time clustering and seasonality using population-based data from the North West of England for the period 1954 to 1998. Knox tests for space-time interactions between cases were applied with fixed thresholds of close in space, <5 km, and close in time, <1 year apart. Addresses at birth and diagnosis were used. Tests were repeated replacing geographical distance with distance to the Nth nearest neighbour. N was chosen such that the mean distance was 5 km. Data were also examined by a second order procedure based on K-functions. Tests for heterogeneity and Edwards' test for sinusoidal variation were applied to examine changes of incidence with month of birth or diagnosis. There was strong evidence of space-time clustering, particularly involving cases of astrocytoma and ependymoma. Analyses of seasonal variation showed excesses of cases born in the late Autumn or Winter. Results are consistent with a role for infections in a proportion of cases from these diagnostic groups. Further studies are needed to identify putative infectious agents.

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