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Risks and causes of persistent trophoblastic disease and choriocarcinoma

Men and women discussing gestational trophoblastic tumours

This page tells you about the risk factors and causes of persistent trophoblastic disease and choriocarcinoma. There is information about

 

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Risks and causes of persistent trophoblastic disease and choriocarcinoma

Persistent trophoblastic tumours and choriocarcinomas belong to a group of pregnancy related tumours called gestational trophoblastic tumours (GTTs). They are very rare.

Persistent trophoblastic disease occurs in some women after a molar pregnancy. There are 2 types of molar pregnancy. If you have had a complete molar pregnancy, you have about a 1 in 6 chance (15%) of developing persistent trophoblastic disease.  For women who have a partial molar pregnancy the risk is only 1 in 100 (1%). 

Choriocarcinoma causes are not yet known, but we do know of some risk factors. The risk of choriocarcinoma is slightly higher in women under 18 and much higher in women over 45. There is only one choriocarcinoma for every 50,000 births in the UK.

 

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What persistent trophoblastic disease and choriocarcinoma are

Persistent trophoblastic disease and choriocarcinoma belong to a group of pregnancy related tumours known as gestational trophoblastic tumours (GTT for short). 

Persistent trophoblastic disease is when you have had treatment to remove a molar pregnancy but still have some molar tissue left in the womb and it grows to form a new tumour.

Choriocarcinomas are extremely rare with about 20 cases per year in the UK. They develop from cells of the placenta and can occur some time after any type of pregnancy (including miscarriages or terminations). Choriocarcinoma is more likely after a molar pregnancy.

 

What a risk factor is

A risk factor is anything that can increase your chance of developing a particular disease. Each type of cancer has different risk factors. Researchers have not yet been able to identify what causes GTT, but we do know of some factors that increase a woman's risk of developing it.

Remember that having one or more risk factors does not mean that you will definitely get GTT. Most people who have one or more of the risk factors never have a GTT, and some people who have none of the risk factors do develop the disease. These cancers are very rare and this information is only a guide to what might increase your risk.

 

How common GTTs are

Gestational trophoblastic tumours are very rare. In the UK there is 1 case of a molar pregnancy for every 590 pregnancies. Choriocarcinoma only happens in around 1 case for every 50,000 babies born.

 

Age

Your risk of developing a molar pregnancy and persistent trophoblastic disease changes with age. The risk of developing it is slightly higher in women under the age of 18 and much higher in women over the age of 45.

 

Ethnic group

Molar pregnancies and persistent trophoblastic disease are slightly more common in women from Asian countries than in women from other ethnic groups. In Asia, and in Asian women living in the UK, there is about 1 molar pregnancy for every 390 babies born, compared to around 1 molar pregnancy for every 590 babies born in the UK.

 

Previous molar pregnancy

About 10 to 15 out of every 100 women (10 to 15%) who have had a complete molar pregnancy will go on to develop either persistent trophoblastic disease or a choriocarcinoma, and will need treatment with chemotherapy. For women who have had a partial molar pregnancy the risk is only 1 in 100 women (1%).

 

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Updated: 22 June 2016