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Childhood radiotherapy 'leads to stillbirths' in adults

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Receiving radiotherapy during childhood raises the risk of women losing a baby when they are older, according to new research.

The risk of suffering a stillbirth or infant death is 12 times times more likely for women who underwent radiation treatment to the pelvic area when they were girls, experts in the US found.

Scientists believe high doses of radiation restrict the flow of blood and growth of the womb, according to the report published in The Lancet medical journal’s online edition.

The study analysed figures from the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study, which draws data from 25 US institutions and one in Canada, to determine whether there was increased risk of stillbirth or infant death among the children of men and women who had cancer during their childhood.

Although there appeared to be a significant effect on women exposed to radiation as a child, the same was not true of men who had treatment for testicular cancer when they were boys.

Study leader Professor John Boice, from the International Epidemiology Institute in Rockville, Maryland, said the chances of men fathering healthy children later in life were not affected by childhood radiotherapy treatment.

The researchers wrote: “For women, high-dose uterine or ovarian radiation does seem to have important adverse effects, which are most likely to be attributed to uterine damage. Therefore, careful management is warranted for pregnant women treated with high doses of pelvic irradiation before they have reached puberty.”

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