Family studies in acute leukaemia in childhood: a possible association with autoimmune disease

Br J Cancer. 1979 Jul;40(1):62-71. doi: 10.1038/bjc.1979.141.


Medical histories of themselves and their first-degree relatives were obtained from parents of 82 leukaemic children (54 acute lymphoblastic (ALL), 28 acute myeloblastic (AML)) and from control couples matched for age. The possibility of a primary familial immunological abnormality as an aetiological factor in childhood leukaemia was suggested by binding some infections significantly more frequently reported in parents than in controls, but more strongly supported by the finding of a significantly (P less than 0.02) increased prevalence of disorders associated with autoimmunity (but not of other conditions such as peptic ulceration, infective hepatitis, tuberculosis or malignancy) amongst members of ALL families compared to those of controls. Analogy with Down's syndrome and the strain of NZB mice, in which diminished T-cell function is associated with autoimmune disease and lymphoid neoplasia, is discussed. Varicella and herpes zoster occurred respectively in 2 ALL mothers during their pregnancies involving the patients and in none of the other 388 pregnancies here reported. This supports previous evidence that antenatal varicella infections may be of aetiological importance in some cases of ALL.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Autoimmune Diseases / complications
  • Autoimmune Diseases / genetics*
  • Blood Cell Count
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity, Immediate / genetics
  • Immunoglobulins / analysis
  • Infections / genetics
  • Leukemia, Lymphoid / etiology
  • Leukemia, Lymphoid / genetics*
  • Leukemia, Myeloid, Acute / genetics*
  • Male
  • Neoplasms / genetics
  • Pregnancy


  • Immunoglobulins