Birth defects linked to dads’ cancer

FATHERS who have survived cancer are at a modestly increased risk of having offspring with serious birth defects, research suggests. 

The study of more 1.75 million children in Danish and Swedish registries showed 8600 children of male cancer survivors had a 17% increased risk of experiencing major congenital abnormalities compared with children born to fathers with no cancer history.

The risk of abnormalities including cystic kidney disease, cleft lip, alimentary tract atresia and limb reduction, was independent of conception modes and stronger in children born within two years of their father’s cancer diagnosis. 

The authors said the increased risk of birth abnormalities may be due to the cancer itself or treatments such as chemotherapy damaging sperm DNA quality.

Paternal history of skin cancer, for which treatment is surgical excision only, conferred almost 40% increased risk of abnormalities, they found. 

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