Childhood Cancer Study

Please note: the recruitment phase for the interview-based study has now ended.

We thank all who participated in the PA Health and Environment survey, and we thank the public for their continued interest in and support of this study. As planned, the recruitment phase of this study has now ended to permit the study team time to perform data analyses and to prepare all relevant manuscripts and documents for publication. Please check back for updates about publications and other public announcements regarding the results of this study.

What are we studying?

We are studying how exposure to environmental risk factors, such as unconventional natural gas development activities, may potentially be associated with risk for childhood cancer. Childhood cancer is the third-leading cause of death in U.S. children, yet there are very few known risk factors. This study will consider some of the risks that may play a role. These include lifestyle behaviors, residential history (where people have lived over time), potential workplace and environmental exposures including unconventional natural gas development activities located in Southwestern Pennsylvania.

Why is this research being done?

This research is specifically being carried out in Southwestern Pennsylvania in part because of concern that some types of childhood cancer may be elevated. As stated above, we will consider potential risk factors for childhood cancer based on many years of previous studies. We hope that the results of this study will help us identify whether exposure to environmental risk factors, such as unconventional natural gas development activities, or where people live and work, may be linked to childhood cancers in Southwestern Pennsylvania. This will help us develop ways to counter these risks.

Who was asked to participate in this research study?

We are completing two studies of childhood cancer: an interview-based study and an analysis of existing records. For the interview-based study, we recruited a case group—families of children with cancer—to compare to a control group—families of children without cancer. Eligible participants were contacted by the project office regarding participation in this study. For the case group, only parents were asked to participate in this study if they had a child:

  • Who was diagnosed with Ewing’s/bone cancers at ages birth-29 years during 2010 through 2019; or
  • Who was diagnosed with Childhood Leukemia, Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and Central Nervous System tumors at ages birth-19 years during 2010 through 2019.
  • Resided in one of the following Pennsylvania counties:
    • Allegheny County
    • Armstrong County
    • Beaver County
    • Butler County
    • Fayette County
    • Greene County
    • Washington County
    • Westmoreland County

For the control group, only parents were asked to participate in this study. The participants in both groups were matched on age, sex, race, and county. For the analysis of existing records: we are not contacting anyone to participate in the study of secondary data sources. All the information that we need is already in existing records provided by the DOH. We have obtained birth information from PA birth records from 1990 to 2019 and cancer registry data from 2010 to 2019.

What were parents asked to do?

Participants were asked to complete a one-time telephone interview or online survey about individual, occupational (where they work), and environmental risk factors (e.g. potential chemical exposure where they live). Participants were compensated for their time.

Support for Study Participants

We understand that the study questionnaire contains some potentially sensitive and personal questions that might cause some discomfort or anxiety in participants. We have in the past offered support for stress-related issues from participants. Our interviewers are very sensitive to questions being asked of the participants. We also let participants know at the outset of the interview that if any question or questions are uncomfortable, they do not have to answer.

Additionally, Pennsylvania’s Department of Human Services’ ‘Mental Health in PA’ website offers multiple formats and levels of mental health resources for participants in any of the eight counties being studied. The PA Support & Referral Helpline is 1-855-284-2494 (TTY: 724-631-5600). Texting “PA” to 741741 will connect participants to a crisis counselor via text.


Any information provided for this research study will be kept strictly confidential. Information shared with others will be grouped to protect participants so that no one outside of the study team can find out any personal information.

Who is paying for this study?

The study is funded by the Pennsylvania Department of Health.