Infections, vaccinations, and the risk of childhood leukaemia

Br J Cancer. 1999 Jul;80(9):1483-9. doi: 10.1038/sj.bjc.6690548.


A nationwide case-control study was conducted in New Zealand, to test hypotheses about the role of infections in the aetiology of childhood leukaemia. Children aged 0-14 years with leukaemia were matched on age and sex to controls selected from birth records. Case ascertainment was virtually complete and 121 (92%) of 131 eligible case families took part. The participation rate among the 303 first-choice eligible controls was 69%. Home interviews and serological tests were conducted. Adjusted relative risks were estimated by logistic regression. There was an increased risk of leukaemia in relation to reported influenza infection of the child during the first year of life (adjusted odds ratio 6.8, 95% confidence interval 1.8-25.7). This could be a chance finding due to multiple comparisons, and it should be tested elsewhere. Some key variables relevant to Greaves' hypothesis were not associated with B-cell precursor acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (numbers of infections and vaccinations, firstborn status, attendance at preschool groups), although a small effect could not be ruled out with a study of this size. Leukaemia risk was higher among children in poorer social circumstances, and this was true for all eligible children as well as for the participants.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Leukemia / etiology*
  • Male
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Risk
  • Vaccination*