Objective: Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) is generally considered to be non-radiogenic and is excluded from several programs that compensate workers for illnesses resulting from occupational exposures. Questions about whether this exclusion is justified prompted a Congressional mandate to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to, further, examine the radiogenicity of CLL. This study revisits the question of CLL radiogenicity by examining epidemiologic evidence from occupationally and medically-exposed populations.
Methods: A systematic review of radiation-exposed cohorts was conducted to investigate the association between radiation and CLL. Exploratory power calculations for a pooled occupational study were performed to examine the feasibility of assessing CLL radiogenicity epidemiologically.
Results: There is a bias against reporting CLL results, because of the disease's presumed non-radiogenicity. In medical cohort studies that provide risk estimates for CLL, risk is elevated, though non-significantly, in almost all studies with more than 15 years average follow-up. The results of occupational studies are less consistent.
Conclusions: Studies with adequate follow-up time and power are needed to better understand CLL radiogenicity. Power analyses show that a pooled study might detect risk on the order of radiation induced non-CLL leukemia, but is unlikely to detect smaller risks.