Children of parents with cancer have lower grades and earn less

Children whose parents battled cancer have lower grades and earn less money as adults

Children whose parents battled cancer have lower grades and earn less money as adults, 30-year study reveals

  • New analysis drew on 1,155,214 Danish children born between 1978 and 1999 
  • The more severe the parent’s cancer, the greater the impact seemed to be
  • Researchers stress need for greater support of youngsters in such situations

Children whose parents battled cancer have lower grades and earn less money in their chosen careers, a study has revealed.

Researchers have today warned the more severe their mother or father’s cancer, the greater the impact on them.  

Danish scientists examined data from more than one million people, followed until they were 30, to make the conclusion.

Around one in three people will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lives, figures suggest.

Effects: Researchers stress need for support of youngsters who experience parental cancer

Analysts at Copenhagen University recorded the final grades of the participants at the age of 15. Their teachers were also surveyed.

Disposable income by age 30 was compiled using national data estimates, based on another 360,054 children several years older.

The results showed children with experience of parental cancer had a much lower final grade average than children who did not.

And this risk was 1.5 times higher if their mother or father’s chances of surviving five years were poor, and 1.6 times higher if the parent died.

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The risk of low attainment was even greater if it was the father who’d been affected.

No such associations were evident if the outlook was good or if the parent was alive by the child’s 18th birthday.

There was also a moderately increased risk of lower earnings power by the age of 30 if a parent had had cancer. 

Particularly badly affected were children who had been under five when the diagnosis was made.

This suggests that any impact of parental cancer in early childhood may extend across the life course, say the researchers. 

The team of researchers published their findings in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health.

They were unable to confirm why children whose parents battled cancer would be more likely to have low grades and earn less money.

But they said: ‘In a life course perspective, parental cancer in childhood could be considered as a potential early life stressor.

‘[This] may increase the health vulnerability to later life exposures, expanding the risk of later social disadvantage and poor adult health.’

They conclude their findings ‘may indicate some children who experience parental cancer would benefit from appropriate support and early educational rehabilitation in [their] teenage years.’


Arsenic – one of the most deadly poisons – has been found to have a new use as a drug to kill cancer.

The discovery has been prompted by studies that find that in places where arsenic is found in public drinking water, breast cancer rates are lower.

Arsenic has been used to treat cancer for hundreds of years in traditional Chinese medicine.

In recent years, it has become used in chemotherapy – although its use is associated with significant risks because of its poisonous nature.

Now the researchers believe that they have found that used in combination with another drug that it is effective at knocking out a ‘master’ enzyme in cancer cells.

Dr Xiao Zhen Zhou and colleagues at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston found that a type of arsenic known as arsenic trioxide works together with another drug – trans retinoic acid – to make chemotherapy more effective. 

The enzyme, called Pin 1, is produced in tumors that triggers the creation of more than 40 other proteins that cause tumors to grow or spread. 

It also suppresses the creation of 20 tumor-suppressing proteins.

As well as having wide ranging effects, it is thought that the drug will be more difficult for cancer tumors to develop resistance to the treatment.

Cancer tumors are often resistant to drugs that attack specific proteins – so targeting the ‘master’ enzyme could be active over a range of different pathways.

Dr Zhou said: ‘Our discovery strongly suggests an exciting new possibility of adding arsenic trioxide to existing therapies in treating triple-negative breast cancer and many other cancer types.

‘This might significantly improve the outcomes of cancer treatment.’

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