Solid cancers after bone marrow transplantation

N Engl J Med. 1997 Mar 27;336(13):897-904. doi: 10.1056/NEJM199703273361301.


Background: The late effects of bone marrow transplantation, including cancer, need to be determined in a large population at risk.

Methods: We studied 19,229 patients who received allogeneic transplants (97.2 percent) or syngeneic transplants (2.8 percent) between 1964 and 1992 at 235 centers to evaluate the risk of the development of a new solid cancer. Risk factors relating to the patient, the transplant, and the course after transplantation were evaluated.

Results: The transplant recipients were at significantly higher risk of new solid cancers than the general population (observed cases, 80; ratio of observed to expected cases, 2.7; P<0.001). The risk was 8.3 times higher than expected among those who survived 10 or more years after transplantation. The cumulative incidence rate was 2.2 percent (95 percent confidence interval, 1.5 to 3.0 percent) at 10 years and 6.7 percent (95 percent confidence interval, 3.7 to 9.6 percent) at 15 years. The risk was significantly elevated (P<0.05) for malignant melanoma (ratio of observed to expected cases, 5.0) and cancers of the buccal cavity (11.1), liver (7.5), brain or other parts of the central nervous system (7.6), thyroid (6.6), bone (13.4), and connective tissue (8.0). The risk was higher for recipients who were younger at the time of transplantation than for those who were older (P for trend <0.001). In multivariate analyses, higher doses of total-body irradiation were associated with a higher risk of solid cancers. Chronic graft-versus-host disease and male sex were strongly linked with an excess risk of squamous-cell cancers of the buccal cavity and skin.

Conclusions: Patients undergoing bone marrow transplantation have an increased risk of new solid cancers later in life. The trend toward an increased risk over time after transplantation and the greater risk among younger patients indicate the need for life-long surveillance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Bone Marrow Transplantation / adverse effects*
  • Child
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Graft vs Host Disease / complications
  • Hematologic Diseases / therapy
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Leukemia / therapy
  • Male
  • Neoplasms, Radiation-Induced / etiology
  • Neoplasms, Second Primary / epidemiology
  • Neoplasms, Second Primary / etiology*
  • Radiation Dosage
  • Regression Analysis
  • Risk Factors
  • Time Factors
  • Whole-Body Irradiation / adverse effects