Late mortality among survivors of childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia diagnosed during 1971-2008 in Denmark, Finland, and Sweden: A population-based cohort study

Pediatr Blood Cancer. 2022 Jan;69(1):e29356. doi: 10.1002/pbc.29356. Epub 2021 Sep 28.


Objective: Investigate all-cause and cause-specific late mortality after childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) in a population-based Nordic cohort.

Methods: From the cancer registries of Denmark, Finland, and Sweden, we identified 3765 five-year survivors of ALL, diagnosed before age 20 during 1971-2008. For each survivor, up to five matched comparison subjects were randomly selected from the general population (n = 18,323). Causes of death were classified as relapse related, health related, and external. Late mortality was evaluated by cumulative incidences of death from 5-year survival date. Mortality hazard ratios (HR) were evaluated with Cox proportional models.

Results: Among the survivors, 315 deaths occurred during a median follow-up of 16 years from 5-year survival date (range 0-42). The majority were attributable to relapse (n = 224), followed by second neoplasm (n = 45). Cumulative incidence of all-cause late mortality at 15 years from diagnosis decreased gradually over treatment decades, from 14.4% (95% confidence interval [CI]: 11.6-17.2) for survivors diagnosed during 1971-1981, to 2.5% (95% CI: 1.3-3.7) for those diagnosed during 2002-2008. This was mainly attributable to a reduction in relapse-related deaths decreasing from 13.4% (95% CI: 10.7-16.1) for survivors diagnosed during 1971-1981 to 1.9% (95% CI: 0.9-2.8) for those diagnosed during 2002-2008. Health-related late mortality was low and did not change substantially across treatment decades. Compared to comparison subjects, all-cause mortality HR was 40 (95% CI: 26-61) 5-9 years from diagnosis, and 4.4 (95% CI: 3.4-5.6) ≥10 years from diagnosis.

Conclusions: Survivors of ALL have higher late mortality than population comparison subjects. Among the survivors, there was a temporal reduction in risk of death from relapse, without increments in health-related death.

Keywords: acute lymphoblastic leukemia; cause-specific mortality; childhood cancer; late mortality; long-term follow-up; survivorship.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cancer Survivors* / statistics & numerical data
  • Cohort Studies
  • Denmark / epidemiology
  • Finland / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Overtreatment
  • Precursor Cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia-Lymphoma* / mortality
  • Sweden / epidemiology
  • Young Adult