Study Links Spikes in Leukemia Incidence to Flu Epidemics

Supports hypothesis that some leukemias triggered by infection

WEDNESDAY, March 15 (HealthDay News) -- A review of the largest population-based childhood cancer registry in the United Kingdom shows two spikes in acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) incidence immediately followed years with influenza epidemics, according to a study in the March 15 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Mary E. Kroll, M.Sc., from Oxford University in England, and colleagues used data from the National Registry of Childhood Tumours to examine trends in leukemia diagnosed in children under the age of 15 in England, Wales and Scotland from 1974 to 2000.

A total of 11,790 cases of leukemia were recorded during the time period. The investigators found an average annual percentage rate change of 0.7 percent in ALL that was largely due to an increase in CD10 positive, "common" ALL. Two peaks of ALL incidence immediately followed influenza epidemics in 1976 and 1990.

"These results are consistent with hypotheses that some childhood leukemia may be triggered by infection occurring close to the time of diagnosis of leukemia, particularly in conditions of low herd immunity, and raise the possibility that contact with influenza shortly before the diagnosis of leukemia may sometimes be involved," the authors conclude.

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