Can Retinoblastoma Be Prevented?

In adults, the risk for many cancers can be reduced by avoiding certain risk factors, such as smoking or exposure to hazardous chemicals in the workplace. But there are no known avoidable risk factors for retinoblastoma. If your child has retinoblastoma, it’s important to know that you or your child did nothing to cause it.

In some cases, parents who had the heritable form of retinoblastoma can pass on the RB1 gene change that increases risk to their children. People who have had retinoblastoma might want to consider genetic counseling before having children to learn more about the risks of passing on this gene change and perhaps to explore ways to avoid this. For example, an option some people might consider would be to use in vitro fertilization (IVF) and implant only embryos that don’t have the gene change.

If a preventive option is not used, children born to a parent with a history of retinoblastoma should be screened carefully for this cancer starting shortly after birth, because early detection of this cancer greatly improves the chance for successful treatment. See Can Retinoblastoma Be Found Early? for more information.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Hurwitz RL, Shields CL, Shields JA, et al. Chapter 27: Retinoblastoma. In: Pizzo PA, Poplack DG, eds. Principles and Practice of Pediatric Oncology. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2016.

Kaufman PL, Kim J, Berry JL. Retinoblastoma: Clinical presentation, evaluation, and diagnosis. UpToDate. Accessed at www.uptodate.com/contents/retinoblastoma-clinical-presentation-evaluation-and-diagnosis on September 18, 2018.

National Cancer Institute. Retinoblastoma Treatment (PDQ®). 2018. Accessed at www.cancer.gov/types/retinoblastoma/hp/retinoblastoma-treatment-pdq on September 18, 2018.

Rodriguez-Galindo C, Orbach DB, VanderVeen D. Retinoblastoma. Pediatr Clin North Am. 2015;62(1):201-223.

Last Medical Review: December 3, 2018 Last Revised: December 3, 2018

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