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Br J Cancer. 2001 Apr 6;84(7):1002-7.

Paternal occupational contact level and childhood leukaemia in rural Scotland: a case-control study.

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Department of Public Health, CRC Cancer Epidemiology Research Group, University of Oxford, Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford, OX2 6HE, UK.


In a national Scottish study of 809 cases of leukaemia and non-Hodgkins lymphoma diagnosed in 1950-89 among children aged 0-4 years who were born in Scotland, together with 2363 matched population controls, we investigated one aspect of the infective hypothesis. This concerns whether in rural areas (where the prevalence of susceptible individuals is likely to be higher) the risk is greater among the young children of men whose work involves contacts with many different people, particularly children, as noted in certain childhood infections. A positive trend was found in rural areas across 3 levels of increasing paternal occupational contact (as recorded at birth) by each of 2 previously defined classifications; no such effect was found in urban areas. The rural trend was more marked in that part of the study period with greater population mixing, but the difference from the period with less mixing was not itself significant, leaving open whether these rural findings reflect the extreme isolation of much of rural Scotland, or the effects in such areas of a degree of population mixing. In marked contrast, among the 850 cases and 2492 controls aged 5-14, those in rural areas in the higher population mixing period showed a significantly decreasing trend with increasing paternal occupational contact level. This would be consistent with immunity produced either by earlier infection at ages 0-4 years, or directly by low doses of the infective agent that were largely immunizing at these older ages. The findings overall provide further support for infection underlying childhood leukaemia and for the role of adults.

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