Is There Etiologic Heterogeneity between Subtypes of Childhood Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia? A Review of Variation in Risk by Subtype

Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2019 May;28(5):846-856. doi: 10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-18-0801. Epub 2019 Feb 15.


Although substantial advances in the identification of cytogenomic subtypes of childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) have been made in recent decades, epidemiologic research characterizing the etiologic heterogeneity of ALL by subtype has not kept pace. The purpose of this review is to summarize the current literature concerning subtype-specific epidemiologic risk factor associations with ALL subtype defined by immunophenotype (e.g., B-cell vs. T-cell) and cytogenomics (including gross chromosomal events characterized by recurring numerical and structural abnormalities, along with cryptic balanced rearrangements, and focal gene deletions). In case-control analyses investigating nongenetic risk factors, home paint exposure is associated with hyperdiploid, MLL-rearranged, and ETV6-RUNX1 subtypes, yet there are few differences in risk factor associations between T- and B-ALL. Although the association between maternal smoking and ALL overall has been null, maternal smoking is associated with an increasing number of gene deletions among cases. GWAS-identified variants in ARID5B have been the most extensively studied and are strongly associated with hyperdiploid B-ALL. GATA3 single nucleotide variant rs3824662 shows a strong association with Ph-like ALL (OR = 3.14). However, there have been relatively few population-based studies of adequate sample size to uncover risk factors that may define etiologic heterogeneity between and within the currently defined cytogenomic ALL subtypes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers, Tumor / genetics
  • Child
  • Chromosome Aberrations*
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • GATA3 Transcription Factor / genetics
  • Genetic Heterogeneity*
  • Humans
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide
  • Precursor Cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia-Lymphoma / classification*
  • Precursor Cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia-Lymphoma / etiology*
  • Precursor Cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia-Lymphoma / genetics
  • Precursor Cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia-Lymphoma / pathology
  • Risk Factors
  • Transcription Factors / genetics


  • ARID5B protein, human
  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • GATA3 Transcription Factor
  • GATA3 protein, human
  • Transcription Factors