Background: Studies of the relation between parental smoking and childhood leukemia have produced inconsistent results. In the largest case-control studies of childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and acute myeloid leukemia (AML) conducted to date, the authors evaluated leukemia risk relative to parental self-report of cigarette smoking.
Methods: In telephone interviews in which a structured questionnaire was used, parents of 1842 ALL patients, 517 AML patients, and their matched controls were asked about their cigarette smoking habits before, during, and after the pregnancy with the index child. Risk of leukemia was examined by histologic type, age of the child at diagnosis, immunophenotype (for ALL), and French-American-British morphology group (for AML).
Results: The risk of ALL was not associated with the father's ever having smoked (odds ratio [OR] = 1.04, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.90-1.20) or the mother's ever having smoked (OR = 1.04, 95% CI 0.91-1.19). Similarly, no significant risk of AML was observed for paternal (OR = 0.88, 95% CI 0.67-1.16) or maternal smoking (OR = 0.95, 95% CI 0.74-1.22). The relative risk of leukemia was not significantly different from the null for parental smoking in any time period during or around the index pregnancy, nor was it related to the number of cigarettes, the number of years of smoking, or the number of pack-years. A small number of sporadic, statistically significant associations were found, but overall there appeared to be no association between parental cigarette smoking and ALL or AML, or any subgroup of leukemia.
Conclusions: Parental smoking while pregnant or exposure to cigarette smoke shortly after birth is unlikely to contribute substantially to the risk of childhood leukemia in North America.