A systematic review of grandparents’ influence on grandchildren’s cancer risk factors

Stephanie A. Chambers (Lead / Corresponding author), Neneh Rowa-Dewar, Andrew Radley, Fiona Dobbie

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)
61 Downloads (Pure)


Many lifestyle patterns are established when children are young. Research has focused on the potential role of parents as a risk factor for non communicable disease in children, but there is limited investigation of the role of other caregivers, such as grandparents. The aim of this review was to identify and synthesise evidence for any influence grandparents’ care practices may have on their grandchildren’s long term cancer risk factors. A systematic review was carried out with searches across four databases (MEDLINE, Embase, Web of Science, PsycINFO) as well as searches of reference lists and citing articles, and Google Scholar. Search terms were based on six areas of risk that family care could potentially influence–weight, diet, physical activity, tobacco, alcohol and sun exposure. All study designs were included, as were studies that provided an indication of the interaction of grandparents with their grandchildren. Studies were excluded if grandparents were primary caregivers and if children had serious health conditions. Study quality was assessed using National Institute for Health and Care Excellence checklists. Grandparent impact was categorised as beneficial, adverse, mixed or as having no impact. Due to study heterogeneity a meta-analysis was not possible. Qualitative studies underwent a thematic synthesis of their results. Results from all included studies indicated that there was a sufficient evidence base for weight, diet, physical activity and tobacco studies to draw conclusions about grandparents’ influence. One study examined alcohol and no studies examined sun exposure. Evidence indicated that, overall, grandparents had an adverse impact on their grandchildren’s cancer risk factors. The theoretical work in the included studies was limited. Theoretically underpinned interventions designed to reduce these risk factors must consider grandparents’ role, as well as parents’, and be evaluated robustly to inform the evidence base further.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0185420
Pages (from-to)1-28
Number of pages28
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 14 Nov 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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