1. Serum lipids and lipoprotein profiles were determined in children affected by different types of malignancies (leukaemias or lymphomas and solid tumours) both before any treatment and after remission of the disease following chemical or surgical therapy.

2. At the time of diagnosis, children bearing tumours showed hypertriglyceridaemia and reduced concentrations of plasma high-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels, the decrease being particularly prominent in patients with haematological tumours. Children bearing solid tumours displayed an increase of total cholesterol, while those with haematological cancer showed decreased phospholipid levels; low-density lipoprotein cholesterol in neoplastic patients was not significantly different from control values. High triacylglycerol and low high-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels were also evident in cancer patients divided according to age into three groups (0–5, 6–10 and 11–15 years) when compared with age-matched control subjects. Similarly, high triacylglycerol and low high-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels were also observed in both male and female children when patients were divided according to sex and compared with corresponding controls.

3. Clinical remission after therapy was accompanied by an increase of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels compared with values observed at diagnosis. In contrast, post-treatment levels of triacylglycerol were higher than those observed before therapy. These results support the hypothesis that alterations of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels may be related, at least in part, to the rate of tumour growth, while modifications of triacylglycerol levels may be mediated by different mechanisms.

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