Context: Little is known about the incidence of secondary neoplasms after 15 to 20 years in children and adolescents who were treated for acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
Objectives: To investigate the cumulative incidence of secondary neoplasms in pediatric patients treated for acute lymphoblastic leukemia over 30 years and to characterize late-occurring tumors.
Design, setting, and patients: Retrospective study of 2169 patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia treated between 1962 and 1998 at St Jude Children's Research Hospital, Memphis, Tenn, who achieved complete remission and had a median follow-up time of 18.7 years (range, 2.4-41.3 years).
Main outcome measures: Cumulative incidences of secondary neoplasms in first remission and standard incidence ratios of observed rates compared with rates of cancer development in the general US population.
Results: Secondary neoplasms developed as the first event in 123 patients and comprised 46 myeloid malignancies, 3 lymphomas, 14 basal cell carcinomas, 16 other carcinomas, 6 sarcomas, 16 meningiomas, and 22 other brain tumors. The cumulative incidence of secondary neoplasm was 4.17% (SE, 0.46%) at 15 years and increased substantially after 20 years, reaching 10.85% (SE, 1.27%) at 30 years. When meningiomas and basal cell carcinomas were excluded, the overall cumulative incidence was 3.99% (SE, 0.44%) at 15 years and 6.27% (SE, 0.83%) at 30 years, representing a 13.5-fold increase in overall risk compared with the general population. The cumulative incidence of each tumor type at 30 years was 2.19% (SE, 0.32%) for myeloid malignancy, 0.17% (SE, 0.10%) for lymphoma, 3.00% (SE, 0.59%) for brain tumor, 4.91% (SE, 1.04%) for carcinoma, and 0.57% (SE, 0.37%) for sarcoma.
Conclusions: The cumulative incidence of secondary neoplasms increases steadily over 30 years after treatment of acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Although the majority of the late-occurring secondary neoplasms are low-grade tumors, the increase in incidence of more aggressive malignant neoplasms is significantly higher than expected in the general population. These results suggest that lifelong follow-up of acute lymphoblastic leukemia survivors is needed to ascertain the full impact of treatment and other leukemia-related factors on secondary neoplasm development.