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Blood. 1998 Aug 15;92(4):1160-4.

Second malignancies in patients with hairy cell leukemia in british columbia: a 20-year experience.

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  • 1Division of Medical Oncology, British Columbia Cancer Agency and the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada.


The purpose of this study was to compare the relative risk of second malignancies in a cohort of patients with hairy cell leukemia (HCL) against the normal population. Potential effects of type of treatment and duration of follow-up and the site distribution of cancer were also examined. Between 1976 and 1996, 117 patients were diagnosed with HCL in British Columbia who were referred to the British Columbia Cancer Agency (BCCA) for treatment. All additional malignancies were traced using a provincial population-based cancer registry and follow-up records from the BCCA. There were 90 men and 27 women. Median age at diagnosis was 53 years. The median follow-up time was 68 months. Twenty-three patients underwent primary splenectomy, 65 received interferon alpha, 24 deoxycoformycin, and 67 cladribine (2-chlorodeoxyadenosine). Thirty-six patients had an additional malignancy (30.7%) with a total of 44 tumors. Six patients (5.1%) had two or more malignancies. Twenty-five patients had malignancies diagnosed after HCL (21.3%), three concurrent with HCL (2.6%), and 12 preceding HCL (10.2%). Second tumors (n = 28 tumors) occurred at a median of 40 months after HCL (range, 3 to 167). The relative rate (RR) of second malignancy among men and women was 2.91 (P < .001) and 1.65 (P = .23), respectively, compared with age and secular trend-matched controls. There were eight prostate cancers, nine nonmelanoma skin cancers, two lung cancers, and four gastrointestinal adenocarcinomas. The RR (90% confidence interval [CI]) in the various treatment groups were: splenectomy (RR = 0.21 to 3.81), purine analogues (RR = 0.60 to 5.69), interferon then purine analogues (RR = 1.60 to 4.31), interferon alone (RR = 1. 57 to 8.40). Cancer risk peaked at 2 years after HCL (RR = 4.13) and fell steadily afterwards, reaching a RR of 1.82 at 6 years. Twenty patients died, six due to HCL, 10 due to second malignancies, and four of unrelated causes. HCL patients appear to be inherently prone to malignancies. This appears to be more related to HCL tumor burden than to genetic predisposition or treatment effect. RR tends to fall with time after effective treatment. However, close monitoring for and vigorous prevention of cancer in HCL patients is advisable.

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