Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 46, Issue 9, pp 3106–3114 | Cite as

Mothers of Children with Autism have Different Rates of Cancer According to the Presence of Intellectual Disability in Their Child

  • Jennifer C. Fairthorne
  • Nicholas H. de Klerk
  • Helen M. Leonard
  • Andrew J. O. Whitehouse
Original Paper


Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and intellectual disability (ID) are neurodevelopmental disorders with strong genetic components. Increasingly, research attention has focused on whether genetic factors conveying susceptibility for these conditions, also influence the risk of other health conditions, such as cancer. We examined the occurrence of hospital admissions and treatment/services for cancer in mothers of children with ASD with or without ID compared with other mothers. After linking Western Australian administrative health databases, we used Cox regression to estimate the hazard ratios (HRs) of any hospitalisations and treatment/services for cancer in these groups of mothers. Mothers of children with ASD without ID had greater risk of admissions for cancer (HR 1.29 [95 % CI 1.1, 1.7]), and for treatment/services in particular (HR 1.41 [95 % CI 1.0, 2.0]), than mothers of children with no ASD/ID, while mothers of children with ASD with ID were no more likely to have a cancer-related hospital admission than other mothers. Mothers of children with autism without ID had increased risk of cancer, which may relate to common genetic pathways.


Autism Intellectual disability Cancer Parents Genetics 



This work was partly supported by the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council Program Grant #572742. AJOW is supported by a Senior Research Fellowship from the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council, #1077966. We gratefully acknowledge the data contribution from the Intellectual Disability Exploring Answers (IDEA) Data-base.

Authors’ contributions

All authors participated in study conception, design, analysis, and interpretation of data. JF analysed the data and was advised by NdK. JF wrote the initial manuscript and prepared subsequent drafts after input from all co-authors. All authors read and approved the final manuscript for submission.

Availability of Data and Materials

Some access restrictions apply to the data underlying our findings. Our data was provided by a third party, the Western Australian Department of Health.1 Principal 3 of the conditions for ethical approval state that the information must not be further disclosed to others without prior approval from the Data Custodians and DOHHREC.2 Hence, interested persons would have to go through the same procedure as we did to obtain the dataset. All information regarding contact details and downloading of the necessary forms are available from the referenced web pages.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

No author reports a financial or non-financial competing interest.

Ethics Approval

Ethical approval for this study (#2011/64) was Granted by the Western Australian Department of Health Human Research Ethics Committee (DOHHREC).

Supplementary material

10803_2016_2847_MOESM1_ESM.docx (14 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 14 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jennifer C. Fairthorne
    • 1
    • 2
  • Nicholas H. de Klerk
    • 1
  • Helen M. Leonard
    • 1
  • Andrew J. O. Whitehouse
    • 1
  1. 1.Telethon Kids InstituteUniversity of Western AustraliaPerthAustralia
  2. 2.Child and Family Research InstituteUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada

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