Clinical Health Updates

Survivors of childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia at long-term increased cancer risk

Clinical Question:
Are survivors of childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia at an increased risk of secondary cancers?

Bottom Line:
The cumulative incidence of secondary neoplasms increases steadily over 30 years after treatment of acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Although the majority of the late-occurring secondary neoplasms are low-grade tumors, the increase in incidence of more aggressive malignant neoplasms is significantly higher than expected in the general population. These results suggest that lifelong follow-up of acute lymphoblastic leukemia survivors is needed to ascertain the full impact of treatment and other leukemia-related factors on secondary neoplasm development.

Hijiya N, Hudson MM, Lensing S, et al. Cumulative incidence of secondary neoplasm as a first event after childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia. JAMA 2007;297:1207-1215.

Study Design:
Cohort (retrospective)

Little is known about the incidence of secondary neoplasms after 15 to 20 years in children and adolescents who were treated for acute lymphoblastic leukemia. The authors investigated the cumulative incidence of secondary neoplasms in pediatric patients treated for acute lymphoblastic leukemia over 30 years and to characterize late-occurring tumors. Retrospective study of 2169 patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia treated between 1962 and 1998 at St Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Memphis, Tenn, who achieved complete remission and had a median follow-up time of 18.7 years (range, 2.4-41.3 years). Cumulative incidences of secondary neoplasms in first remission and standard incidence ratios of observed rates compared with rates of cancer development in the general US population. Secondary neoplasms developed as the first event in 123 patients and comprised 46 myeloid malignancies, 3 lymphomas, 14 basal cell carcinomas, 16 other carcinomas, 6 sarcomas, 16 meningiomas, and 22 other brain tumors. The cumulative incidence of secondary neoplasm was 4.17% (SE, 0.46%) at 15 years and increased substantially after 20 years, reaching 10.85% (SE, 1.27%) at 30 years. When meningiomas and basal cell carcinomas were excluded, the overall cumulative incidence was 3.99% (SE, 0.44%) at 15 years and 6.27% (SE, 0.83%) at 30 years, representing a 13.5-fold increase in overall risk compared with the general population. The cumulative incidence of each tumor type at 30 years was 2.19% (SE, 0.32%) for myeloid malignancy, 0.17% (SE, 0.10%) for lymphoma, 3.00% (SE, 0.59%) for brain tumor, 4.91% (SE, 1.04%) for carcinoma, and 0.57% (SE, 0.37%) for sarcoma.