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Br J Cancer. 1996 May;73(9):1141-7.

Childhood leukaemias in New Zealand: time trends and ethnic differences.

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  • 1Department of Preventive and Social Medicine, University of Otago Medical School, Dunedin, New Zealand.


Registrations from the New Zealand Cancer Registry were used to examine time trends in the incidence of leukaemias among children aged 0-14. There was a statistically significant increase in the incidence of leukaemia among children aged 0-4 during 1953-57 to 1988-90. In this age group, the recorded incidence rate increased from 4.89 per 100,000 person-years in 1953-57 to 7.92 in 1988-90. During 1973-77 to 1988-90 (and probably in earlier years), the increase was due to an increase in acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL). The trends were unlikely to be due to changes in diagnosis or case ascertainment. The childhood leukaemia trends might be related to trends in family size, maternal age, socioeconomic level or exposure to infections. However, there are uncertainties about the importance of these factors or about their trends. The incidence of acute non-lymphoblastic leukaemia (ANLL) decreased between 1968-72 and 1988-90. The time trends highlight the likely importance of environmental factors in the aetiology of childhood leukaemias in New Zealand. The risk of ALL was lower in the Maori than in the non-Maori population (relative risk Maori/non-Maori 0.74). The risk of ANLL was higher among Maori (relative risk 1.84).

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