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Br J Cancer. 1998 Mar;77(5):812-7.

Spatial temporal patterns in childhood leukaemia: further evidence for an infectious origin. EUROCLUS project.

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Department of Public Health Sciences, The University of Edinburgh, Medical School, UK.


The EUROCLUS project included information on residence at diagnosis for 13351 cases of childhood leukaemia diagnosed in the period 1980-89 in defined geographical regions in 17 countries. A formal algorithm permits identification of small census areas as containing case excesses. The present analysis examines spatial-temporal patterns of the cases (n = 970) within these clustered areas. The objectives were, first, to compare these results with those from an analysis conducted for UK data for the period 1966-83, and, second, to extend them to consider infant leukaemias. A modification of the Knox test investigates, within the small areas, temporal overlap between cases in a subgroup of interest at a putative critical time and all other cases at any time between birth and diagnosis. Critical times were specified in advance as follows: for cases of acute lymphoblastic leukaemia aged 2-4 years, the 18-month period preceding diagnosis; for cases of total leukaemia aged 5-14 years, 1 year before to 1 year after birth; and for infant cases (diagnosed < 1 year), 1 year before to 6 months after birth. Each of the analyses found evidence of excess space-time overlap compared with that expected; these were 10% (P = 0.005), 15% (P= 0.0002) and 26% (P= 0.03) respectively. The results are interpreted in terms of an infectious origin of childhood leukaemia.

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