Childhood cancer is fundamentally a disease of dysregulated development. Why does it rarely occur during the fetal period, a time of enormous growth and development?

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    $\begingroup$ "Childhood cancer is fundamentally a disease of dysregulated development." Can you please clarify what you mean in stating this? I'm a bit confused why you say this; I can think of lots of 'childhood cancers' that seem to be no different than those occuring in older adults. In fact, a number of cancers have a bimodal presentations, one in childhood/adolescence and then again in adults. $\endgroup$ Apr 24, 2019 at 2:28

1 Answer 1


Nature tends to turn against cancer not towards it. Cancer exists when cells begin to multiply with abnormal features, without correction. Cancer is the consequence of many many harmful mutations, which inhibit the correct reading of DNA.

Cancer takes time to develop, not months, but years. Also, babies don't have old tissues, so there haven't been as many divisions, or as many opportunities for mutations, as a 5 yr old or a 10 yr old has gone through.

Although rare, Neuroblastoma is a cancer that babies CAN be born with. Nerve cells develop early, week 5 of fetal development.

Perhaps someone else could talk more about the biological mechanisms which really make cancer more a reality for older organisms, but probablistically, it doesn't make sense that a newborn baby would have cancer.

I looked up these links, to try and address your question.

cancer in general https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/understanding/what-is-cancer

why cancer takes time to develop https://sites.duke.edu/missiontomars/the-mission/cancer/why-do-most-cancers-take-so-long-to-develop/

cancer in babies https://blog.dana-farber.org/insight/2015/02/can-babies-be-born-with-cancer/


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