Parental Exposure to Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons and the Risk of Childhood Brain Tumors: The SEARCH International Childhood Brain Tumor Study

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Experimental evidence suggests that parental exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), which occurs primarily through tobacco smoke, occupational exposure, and air pollution, could increase the risk of cancer during childhood. Population-based case-control studies carried out in seven countries as part of the SEARCH Program compared data for 1,218 cases of childhood brain tumors and 2,223 controls (1976–1994). Parental occupational exposure to PAH during the 5-year period before birth was estimated with a job exposure matrix. Risk estimates were adjusted for child’s age, sex, and study center. Paternal preconceptional occupational exposure to PAH was associated with increased risks of all childhood brain tumors (odds ratio (OR)=1.3, 95% confidence interval: 1.1, 1.6) and astroglial tumors (OR=1.4, 95% confidence interval: 1.1, 1.7). However, there was no trend of increasing risk with predicted level of exposure. Paternal smoking alone (OR=1.4) was also associated with the risk of astroglial tumors in comparison with nonsmoking, non-occupationally-exposed fathers. Risks for paternal occupational exposure were higher, with (OR=1.6) or without (OR=1.7) smoking. Maternal occupational exposure to PAH before conception or during pregnancy was rare, and this exposure was not associated with any type of childhood brain tumor. This large study supports the hypothesis that paternal preconceptional exposure to PAH increases the risk of brain tumors in humans.

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