Children's Hospital Colorado

Neuroblastoma in Children

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What is neuroblastoma?

A neuroblastoma is a tumor that develops in young nerve cells called neuroblasts. This can happen in several areas of the body. When neuroblasts develop correctly, they turn into nerves that control important functions in the body — like heartbeat and blood pressure. In some cases, neuroblasts don't mature into healthy cells and instead grow into cancerous neuroblastoma tumors.

Pediatric neuroblastoma is extremely rare, affecting about 700 infants and children each year. While rare in general, it’s the most common type of solid tumor diagnosed in infants, with most children diagnosed before age 5.

What causes pediatric neuroblastoma?

DNA changes in developing neuroblasts may turn healthy cells into neuroblastomas. However, doctors and researchers don’t know why this happens while the neuroblasts are developing. Environmental and lifestyle factors don’t seem to increase the risk of neuroblastoma. But recent research suggests that a small percentage of neuroblastomas may be inherited (passed down from parents). If your child inherits specific genetic variations, their risk of developing neuroblastoma may be higher.

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