Family history of cancer and non-malignant diseases and risk of childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia: A Children's Oncology Group Study

Heather Zierhut, Martha S. Linet, Leslie L. Robison, Richard K. Severson, Logan Spector

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Background: Studies of family history of cancer and non-malignant diseases in childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) show inconsistent findings. Most studies show no increased risk with family history of cancer. Non-malignant diseases such as allergic diseases, autoimmune diseases, birth defects and thyroid diseases have been reported to be associated with ALL. Methods: We conducted a case-control study of family history of cancer and selected non-malignant conditions (allergic diseases, autoimmune diseases, birth defects, and thyroid diseases). ALL cases were obtained from Children's Cancer Group institutions from January 1989 to June 1993. Controls were recruited via random digit dialing. Family history for first degree relatives and grandparents of ALL cases and controls was collected by structured telephone questionnaires. Conditional logistical regression was used to calculate odds ratios adjusting for potential confounders. Results: We found a borderline association of ALL and having a family member with a history of cancer in cases (n= 1842) compared to controls (n= 1986) (OR = 0.98, 95%CI = 0.93, 1.00) and an inverse association for esophageal cancer based on small numbers. Family history of food and drug allergies demonstrated a modestly reduced risk (OR = 0.83, 95%CI = 0.73, 0.95) as did family history of rheumatoid arthritis (OR = 0.79, 95%CI = 0.65, 0.96). There were no associations with family history of any autoimmune diseases, immunodeficiencies, birth defects, thyroid diseases and risk of childhood ALL. Conclusions: These results show no association of overall family history of cancer with childhood ALL, while providing additional evidence for an inverse association with family history of allergic disease. Two potentially new associations of ALL with family history of esophageal cancer and rheumatoid arthritis require confirmation in other studies and validation with medical records.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)45-51
Number of pages7
JournalCancer Epidemiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Supported in part by Grant CA 13539 from the National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services , Chair's Grant U10 CA98543 , and the Children's Cancer Research Fund , Minneapolis, MN.


  • Acute lymphoblastic leukemia
  • Allergies
  • Autoimmune
  • Cancer
  • Case-control study
  • Family history
  • Pediatric


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