Rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS) is a highly malignant tumor of developing muscle that can occur anywhere in the body. Due to its rarity, relatively little is known about the epidemiology of RMS. Atopic disease is hypothesized to be protective against several malignancies; however, to our knowledge, there have been no assessments of atopy and childhood RMS. Therefore, we explored this association in a case-control study of 322 childhood RMS cases and 322 pair-matched controls. Cases were enrolled in a trial run by the Intergroup Rhabdomyosarcoma Study Group. Controls were matched to cases on race, sex and age. The following atopic conditions were assessed: allergies, asthma, eczema and hives; in addition, we examined other immune-related factors: birth order, day-care attendance and breastfeeding. Conditional logistic-regression models were used to calculate an odds ratio (OR) and 95% confidence interval (CI) for each exposure, adjusted for age, race, sex, household income and parental education. As the two most common histologic types of RMS are embryonal (n = 215) and alveolar (n = 66), we evaluated effect heterogeneity of these exposures. Allergies (OR = 0.60, 95% CI: 0.41-0.87), hives (OR = 0.61, 95% CI: 0.38-0.97), day-care attendance (OR = 0.48, 95% CI: 0.32-0.71) and breastfeeding for > 12 months (OR = 0.36, 95% CI: 0.18-0.70) were inversely associated with childhood RMS. These exposures did not display significant effect heterogeneity between histologic types (p > 0.52 for all exposures). This is the first study indicating that atopic exposures may be protective against childhood RMS, suggesting additional studies are needed to evaluate the immune system's role in the development of this tumor.
- soft tissue sarcoma