Cancer in children is rare, and neuroblastoma is one of the less common types. It is the most common solid tumor of children younger than one year of age. But it accounts for less than 10 percent of childhood cancers overall. Doctors do not know what causes the cellular changes that lead to neuroblastoma. It’s not clear whether certain factors increase a child’s risk for the disease.
Rarely, patients can inherit the risk of developing neuroblastoma. This is called Familial neuroblastoma. International researchers have recently identified mutations in a gene, called ALK, that resulted in risk of neuroblastoma developing. Testing for the ALK gene mutations will be available in 2009. Please discuss whether your child should be evaluated for mutations in ALK.