Reports From the Field: Multivitamin use in pregnancy cuts childhood tumor risk

Pregnant women who take multiple vitamins can cut their children’s risk of neuroblastoma by 30%-40%, a study has shown.

The study, conducted chiefly at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill, is the largest epidemiologic study ever conducted of neuroblastoma, a childhood nervous system cancer.

"Neuroblastoma is the most common tumor diagnosed in infants and is usually diagnosed in children under three. Typically, fewer than 50% of affected patients live five years following diagnosis," says Andrew F. Olshan, MD, professor of epidemiology at the UNC School of Public Health.

Researchers interviewed mothers of 538 children with neuroblastoma and 504 control subject children without the illness. They asked the mothers about their vitamin use before, during, and after pregnancy and other possible health- and illness-related factors.

"Our findings, combined with previous work on reducing several birth defects with vitamin supplementation . . . supports the recommendation that mothers’ vitamin use before and during pregnancy may benefit their babies’ health. We believe physicians and other health care providers should continue to educate women about these benefits and recommend appropriate dietary habits and daily dietary supplements," Olshan says.