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Environmental factors and childhood acute leukemias and lymphomas

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Richard McNallyORCiD, Professor Louise Parker


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This review considers recent studies regarding the role of environmental factors in the etiology of childhood leukemia and lymphoma. Potential environmental risk factors identified for childhood leukemia include exposure to magnetic fields of more than 0.4 micro Tessla, exposure to pesticides, solvents, benzene and other hydrocarbons, maternal alcohol consumption (but only for certain genotypes), contaminated drinking water, infections, and high birth weight. The finding of space-time clustering and seasonal variation also supports a role for infections. There is little evidence linking childhood leukemia with lifetime exposure to ionizing radiation although fetal exposures to X-rays are associated with increased risk. Breast-feeding, consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables and having allergies all appear to be protective. Burkitt lymphoma (BL) is confined to areas of the world where malaria is endemic, with the additional involvement of the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) as a co-factor. Environmental risk factors suggested for other types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) include exposure to ionizing radiation (both lifetime and antenatal), pesticides, and, in utero exposure to cigarette smoke, benzene and nitrogen dioxide (via the mother). Hodgkin lymphoma (HL) is especially associated with higher levels of socioeconomic deprivation, but breast-feeding seems to confer lower risk. This is consistent with an infection or immune-response mediated etiology for HL. © 2006 Taylor & Francis.

Publication metadata

Author(s): McNally RJQ, Parker L

Publication type: Review

Publication status: Published

Journal: Leukemia and Lymphoma

Year: 2006

Volume: 47

Issue: 4

Pages: 583-598

ISSN (print): 1042-8194

ISSN (electronic): 1026-8022


DOI: 10.1080/10428190500420973

PubMed id: 16690516