The child with a tumor in the throat has a cancer that affects his brain, a new study has revealed.
Researchers at King’s College London found that children with the brain tumor were more likely to develop anxiety disorders and depression than children without it.
The study, published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), was led by researchers at the King’s Children’s Hospital in London.
The team looked at more than 1,000 children with cancer in the head and assessed their symptoms.
They found that the children with tumors in the mouth and neck had significantly higher rates of anxiety disorders, depression and suicidal thoughts than those with benign tumors in other parts of the brain.
The researchers also found that these children also had more severe symptoms of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), such as social withdrawal and repetitive behaviors.
“It’s a really rare condition, so we thought that we would see it in a much larger number of children,” said lead researcher Dr Gwen Wilson, a researcher at King.
“We were surprised to see that the brain tumors were also associated with ASD.”
In addition to having anxiety and depression, the children in the study had also more severe problems with social skills and communication skills, such as speaking and understanding nonverbal communication.
“I thought it would be interesting to look at the links between ASD and the risk of being diagnosed with cancer,” said Dr Wilson.
“What we found was that autism was strongly associated with cancer, and autism is associated with increased risk of developing cancer in children with cancers in the brain.”
She said the research could be used to identify other risk factors for ASD, such a family history of autism, as well as to identify ways to reduce the risk.
While the study found that autism and cancer are linked, there are many other risk indicators that are not yet known, including whether the child has ADHD, or if they are at risk of having autism.
The King’s team hopes to find more ways to better understand autism and the brain, including using brain scans to see if certain genes are involved.
“There are a lot of genes that play a role in the development of autism and it could be that one of these genes might be involved in cancer,” Dr Wilson said.
“This is just the first step in trying to identify the genes and to determine the risk.”