Family history of cancer and incidence of acute leukemia in adults

Garth H. Rauscher, Dale P. Sandler, Charles Poole, James Pankow, Beverly Mitchell, Clara D. Bloomfield, Andrew F. Olshan

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29 Scopus citations


Family history of cancer may represent shared genetic and environmental risk factors for leukemia. The authors examined associations of first-degree family history of cancer with adult acute leukemia incidence by using data on 811 patients (or their proxies) identified at diagnosis and 637 population-based controls in the United States and Canada during 1986-1990. For proxy-interviewed patients, relative risks were elevated for family history of any cancer (relative risk = 1.7, 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.3, 2.4), hematopoietic cancer (relative risk = 1.8, 95% CI: 1.1, 3.0), leukemia (relative risk = 2.4, 95% CI: 1.3, 4.6), and breast cancer (relative risk = 1.7, 95% CI: 1.0, 3.0) but not for colorectal, prostate, or lung cancer. For self-interviewed patients, family history of hematopoietic cancer was inversely associated with leukemia incidence (relative risk = 0.6, 95% CI: 0.4, 1.1). Regardless of patient interview type, history of breast cancer in sisters was positively associated with adult acute leukemia, whereas history of breast cancer in mothers was not. The role of family history of cancer in leukemia etiology is unclear because of differential reporting by patients and proxies. Specifically, self-interviewed patients may underreport cancer in their first-degree relatives. Associations between family history of breast cancer and leukemia incidence may be the result of unmeasured, shared etiologies specific to these cancers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)517-526
Number of pages10
JournalAmerican journal of epidemiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Sep 15 2002

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by a training grant from the National Cancer Institute to the Department of Epidemiology at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill (CA09330-20), by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, and by grants from the National Cancer Institute to the University of Illinois-Chicago (CA57699-06) and to CALGB (CA31946).


  • Case-control studies
  • Leukemia
  • Proxy
  • Risk factors


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