Acute myelogenous leukemia and myelodysplasia secondary to breast cancer treatment: case studies and literature review

Am J Med Sci. 2010 Jan;339(1):36-40. doi: 10.1097/MAJ.0b013e3181bedb74.


Background and purpose: Chemotherapy and radiation therapy for breast cancer are known to increase the risk of developing a myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) and/or acute myelogenous leukemia (AML). Alkylating agents and topoisomerase II inhibitors, fundamental to the treatment of breast cancer, are the most likely contributors to this increase in risk. Radiation therapy adds to the risk, and there is speculation that granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (G-CSF) may also predispose to leukemia. The purpose of this systemic review is to bring to the attention of family physicians the unintended consequence of leukemia secondary to aggressively treated breast cancer.

Methods: The medical records of several patients from Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, with previously treated breast cancer admitted for therapy for AML or myelodysplasia, were reviewed. In addition, the recent literature on this topic was reviewed.

Results: Cases of patients whose AML was likely secondary to their treatment for breast cancer were used to illustrate the role of chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and perhaps G-CSF in the development of leukemia.

Conclusions: Chemotherapy and radiation therapy administered for breast cancer predispose patients to the development of MDS or AML. We hypothesize that the breast cancer (BRCA) gene mutations might add to the risk and that primary care physicians must be aware of the long-term risks of cytotoxic therapy, including the development of MDS or AML.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Alkylating / adverse effects
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Breast Neoplasms / radiotherapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leukemia, Myeloid, Acute / chemically induced
  • Leukemia, Myeloid, Acute / etiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Myelodysplastic Syndromes / chemically induced
  • Myelodysplastic Syndromes / etiology*


  • Antineoplastic Agents, Alkylating