Parents' Cancer Can Have 'Devastating Effects' on Children
Receiving a cancer diagnosis can affect members of the family, but experts know little about the impact parental cancer can have on a child’s well-being.

Using recent National Health Interview Survey data, Zheng and colleagues identified 1232 children (mean age, 11.7 years) living in families with a history of parental cancer along with 33,870 peers (mean age, 10.8 years) in families without a parental cancer history. In unadjusted models, children from families with a parental cancer history were more likely to miss school due to illness or injury (odds ratio [OR], 1.33) and not receive needed medical care due to cost (OR, 1.60), compared with peers without this challenge.

These children were also more apt to take prescription medications for at least 3 months (OR, 1.70), visit the emergency department (OR, 1.56), and experience worse mental health. These mental health issues included feeling worried (OR, 1.48) or unhappy, depressed, or tearful (OR, 1.61), having trouble attending to chores or homework (OR, 1.61), as well as encountering challenges concentrating, regulating emotions, or getting along with others (OR, 1.75).

Our study clearly shows the devastating effects that parental cancer has on children in terms of financial hardship and mental and physical health.