In a new study, researchers found that benign bone tumors may be present in nearly 20% of healthy children.
Although that may sound frightening, common benign bone tumors in symptom-free children are harmless and may resolve over time.
The research was conducted by a team at Indiana University.
Benign bone tumors are commonly detected in children incidentally on radiographs made for other reasons.
Although some benign childhood bone tumors are classified as active or aggressive, these are usually discovered when they cause discomfort or pathologic fracture (caused by underlying disease).
Understandably, these tumors cause a lot of anxiety for patients and families as they await confirmation that the tumor is benign.
In the study, the team analyzed a unique collection of radiographs from a study called the Brush Inquiry, in which a series of healthy, “normal” children in Cleveland, Ohio, underwent annual radiographs from 1926 to 1942.
They analyzed a total of 25,555 digitized radiographs in 262 children, followed from infancy to adolescence.
The results confirmed the high prevalence of benign bone tumors.
A total of 35 benign bone tumors were found in 33 children – an overall rate of 18.9% when considering that only the left side of the children was radiographed.
More than half of the tumors were a type called non-ossifying fibromas, which are masses of connective tissue that have not hardened into bone.
These fibromas tended to appear around age five, with another peak around the time of skeletal maturation, possibly related to changing growth rates.
Of 19 non-ossifying fibromas detected, seven disappeared over time. Others may have resolved in the years after the children stopped undergoing annual radiographs.
Less-common benign bone tumors persisted through the last-available radiographs in all patients who had them.
The findings are generally consistent with previous studies of the rates of benign bone tumors in healthy adults.
It is one of the first studies of benign bone tumors in children, and the only one to provide longitudinal follow-up, including the age at first appearance.
One author of the study is Christopher D. Collier, M.D.
The study is published in The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery.
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