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BMC Pediatr. 2014 Sep 22;14:236. doi: 10.1186/1471-2431-14-236.

Final height and body mass index in adult survivors of childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia treated without cranial radiotherapy: a retrospective longitudinal multicenter Italian study.

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Pediatric Unit, Department of Medical and Surgical Sciences for Mothers, Children and Adults, University of Modena & Reggio Emilia, Via del Pozzo, 71, 41124 Modena, Italy.



Young adult survivors of childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) treated with protocols including cranial radiotherapy demonstrate a persistent weight gain and reduced final height. Published reports on the effects on growth of different oncologic therapies are conflicting and difficult to interpret because they combined children treated with both cranial irradiation and multi-agent chemotherapy. Our study investigated the effect of chemotherapy alone on body mass index (BMI) and on growth at the achievement of final height in a homogeneous cohort of Italian childhood ALL survivors.


We retrospectively studied 162 Caucasian patients treated on the Italian Association of Pediatric Hematology and Oncology protocols without radiotherapy between 1989 and 2000 at five Italian centers with 107 inclusions (58 males). Height- and BMI-standard deviation score (SDS) were collected at diagnosis of ALL, at the end of treatment and at the achievement of final height. Changes in height SDS and BMI SDS with time were analyzed using dependent sample Student's t-test.


A significant reduction of height-SDS was documented during treatment in both genders. This reduction of height-SDS was not followed by an appropriate catch-up growth, despite the achievement of a mean final height within the normal range. At diagnosis females showed a lower mean BMI-SDS than males. During treatment, in the whole population, BMI-SDS increased significantly. After it, while males lost BMI-SDS, females showed its persistent increase.


Survivors of childhood ALL generally seemed to achieve a normal final height with a BMI within the normal range. These parameters appeared to be only minimally affected by chemotherapy. Nevertheless, height catch-up growth was not completed after chemotherapy in both genders and all patients experienced an increase of BMI-SDS during chemotherapy that only females seemed to conserve until the achievement of final height.

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