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Morbidity and healthcare use among siblings of children with cancer: a population-based study


Background — Childhood cancer impacts the entire family unit. We sought to investigate its impact on the long-term physical health outcomes of siblings of children with cancer.

Procedure — Pediatric cancer patients diagnosed in Ontario, Canada between 1988 and 2016 were linked to biological siblings. Sibling cases were matched to population controls based on sex, age, geographic location, and number of other children in the family. After individual linkage to health services data, we compared several outcomes between sibling cases and controls: (a) physical health conditions (such as diabetes, hypertension, and death); (b) acute healthcare use (hospitalization, low- and high-acuity emergency department [ED] visits); and (c) preventive healthcare use (periodic health checkups, influenza vaccinations). Cox proportional hazards, recurrent event, or logistic regression models were used as appropriate.

Results — We identified 8529 sibling cases and 30,364 matched controls (median age at index: 6 years, median age at last follow-up 17 years). Compared to controls, siblings were at increased risk of hypertension (hazard ratio [HR] 1.8; 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.1–2.9; p = .01), had higher rates of low- and high-acuity ED visits (rate ratio 1.1; 95% CI 1.1–1.2; p < .001), and increased risk of hospitalization (HR 1.1; 95% CI 1.1–1.2; p < .001). Sibling cases were also more likely to receive preventive healthcare (p < .05).

Conclusion — Increased risk of hypertension, high-acuity ED visits, and hospitalizations suggest that siblings may experience poorer health compared to controls. Counseling families about this potential increased risk and long-term follow-up of siblings to monitor their physical health may be justified.



Desai A, Sutradhar R, Lau C, Lee DS, Nathan PC, Gupta S. Pediatr Blood Cancer. 2022; 69(4):e29438. Epub 2021 Nov 16.

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