Neuroblastoma

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Causes, Risk Factors, and Prevention TOPICS

What are the risk factors for neuroblastoma?

A risk factor is anything that affects your chance of getting a disease such as cancer. Different cancers have different risk factors.

Lifestyle-related risk factors such as body weight, physical activity, diet, and tobacco use play a major role in many adult cancers. But these factors usually take many years to influence cancer risk, and they are not thought to play much of a role in childhood cancers, including neuroblastomas.

No environmental factors (such as exposures during the mother’s pregnancy or in early childhood) are known to increase the chance of getting neuroblastoma.

Age

Neuroblastoma is most common in very young children, but it is still rare even in this age group. It is very rare in people over the age of 10 years.

Heredity

In about 1% to 2% of all neuroblastomas, children inherit an increased risk of developing neuroblastoma from a parent. But most neuroblastomas do not seem to be inherited.

Children with the familial form of neuroblastoma (those with an inherited tendency to develop this cancer) usually come from families with one or more members who had neuroblastoma as infants. The average age at diagnosis of familial cases is younger than the age for sporadic (not inherited) cases.

Children with familial neuroblastoma sometimes develop 2 or more of these cancers in different organs (for example, in both adrenal glands or in more than one sympathetic ganglion). It’s important to distinguish neuroblastomas that start in more than one organ from neuroblastomas that have started in one organ and then spread to others (metastatic neuroblastomas). When tumors develop in several places at once it suggests a familial form. This might mean that family members should consider genetic counseling and testing (see our document Genetic Testing: What You Need to Know). Both familial and sporadic neuroblastoma can spread to other organs.


Last Medical Review: 03/14/2014
Last Revised: 03/17/2014