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Leukemia. 2002 Apr;16(4):720-5.

Acute lymphoblastic leukemia incidence during socioeconomic transition: selective increase in children from 1 to 4 years.

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  • 1Institute of Immunology, 2nd Medical School, Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic.


Pre-school acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) peak is consistent in developed but not in developing countries and its magnitude apparently correlates with the socioeconomic status. A population-based study describing ALL incidence during socioeconomic transition has been lacking. Central European post-communist countries (with very low foreign migration and centralized statistics) offer reliable data for the period before and during major socioeconomic changes. Population-based data on Czech ALL patients younger than 18 years were taken from two independent Czech national registries partially overlapping in time (1980-1998, n = 1236 and 1991-1999, n = 570). During the 1980s and 1990s, ALL incidence among children 1-4 years increased 1.5 times (P = 0.01). This increase was more prominent in females than in males (slopes 0.13 and 0.09, P values 0.03 and >0.05, respectively). No significant change was observed in other age groups (0, 5-9, 10-14, 15-17 years or all others combined). We discuss possible underlying socioeconomic factors including infant care and breast-feeding, hygiene, birth order, industry and pollution. Moreover, we try to pinpoint the immunophenotypic/molecular-genetic subsets of ALL that might be socioeconomically affected. Selective increase of ALL in children 1-4 years old provides epidemiological evidence that etiology and/or trigger mechanisms are different for a considerable proportion of these children and that these mechanisms are exogenous.

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