Risk factors

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A risk factor is anything that increases a person’s chance of getting a certain condition or disease. Researchers know about some risk factors that increase the chance of developing cancer. However, for most children with cancer, the cause is unknown.

What we do know is that if a child develops cancer, it’s not because of something they, or their parents did to cause it. No one is to blame if a child develops cancer.

Even if your child has a risk factor, it doesn’t mean they will develop cancer. Many children with a risk factor will never develop cancer, while most children with cancer have no known risk factors. Even if a child with a risk factor develops cancer, the risk factor may not have had much to do with it.

Researchers do not completely understand what causes germ cell tumours. But they link some things with a higher chance of developing germ cell tumours.

Genetic conditions

Genetic conditions that affect the sex chromosomes can increase your child’s chance of getting a germ cell tumour. These include:

  • Klinefelter syndrome
  • Swyer syndrome
  • Turner syndrome.

If your child has one of these genetic conditions, they will need specific care. Your health care team will talk to you about which ongoing tests your child will need.

Childhood cancers with links to genetic conditions may also affect the risk for other family members. You can ask your child’s treatment team if you or your family should get genetic counselling.

To learn more about genetic conditions, see the children’s cancer glossary or the Centre for Genetics Education.

Other factors

Male children who have an undescended testicle may have a higher chance of getting testicular germ cell tumours.