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According to a recent article in the journal Epidemiology, women who supplement with daily vitamins and minerals during their pregnancy significantly reduced the risk of their children developing neuroblastoma.

Neuroblastoma is a rare cancer of the tissues that form the sympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system is the division of the nervous system that involuntarily regulates different body functions by constricting blood vessels, increasing heart rate and blood pressure and stimulating certain hormones. There is a network of nerve tissue throughout the body that carries messages from the brain to specific destinations in the body. Neuroblastoma is often diagnosed in children under 2 years old when they begin to show symptoms, but it is often already present at birth. It commonly begins in the adrenal gland located directly on top of each kidney, chest, and/or neck and may extend to the spine. Standard treatment for neuroblastoma may include surgery, moderate-dose chemotherapy and/or radiation, or high-dose chemotherapy and/or radiation followed by a stem cell transplant. It is now known that some forms of neuroblastoma may result in spontaneous regression without treatment, or may evolve into a non-cancerous tumor. Treatment of these types of neuroblastoma may result in unnecessary treatment-related complications.

Vitamin supplementation throughout an entire pregnancy is generally recommended to all pregnant women. Several clinical studies have suggested that vitamin supplementation during pregnancy reduces the risk of some birth defects in the fetus and associations have been established between maternal vitamin supplementation and a reduced risk of acute lymphoblastic leukemia and brain tumors in children.

Researchers from the U.S. and Canada recently conducted a clinical trial to evaluate the effects of vitamin supplementation during pregnancy and the incidence of neuroblastoma in children. They identified 538 children who were diagnosed with neuroblastoma between 1992 and 1994 and compared variables between this group of children to children who were healthy. The researchers discovered that children whose mothers had supplemented with daily vitamins and minerals in the month before pregnancy and during each trimester had a 30% – 40% reduced risk of developing neuroblastoma. However, they could not establish exactly which vitamins and/or minerals were responsible for this effect.

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These researchers concluded that daily vitamin and mineral supplementation one month prior to pregnancy and during pregnancy may significantly reduce the risk of a child developing neuroblastoma. This is just another reason for women who are pregnant to supplement daily with vitamins and minerals. Women who are pregnant or are thinking about having children may wish to discuss prenatal supplementation with their physician.

Reference: Olshan AF, Smith JC, Bondy MK, et al. Maternal vitamin use and reduced risk of neuroblastoma.

Epidemiology. 2002; 13:575-580.