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Cancer Chemotherapy Tied to Slight Rise in Risk for Leukemia
Date:2/14/2013

THURSDAY, Feb. 14 (HealthDay News) -- Chemotherapy can be a lifesaver for thousands of cancer patients, but a new study suggests that it might slightly raise the odds for a type of leukemia later in life.

Over the past 30 years, the risk for acute myeloid leukemia (AML) has increased for patients who underwent chemotherapy for certain forms of cancer, particularly non-Hodgkin lymphoma, the new study found.

On the other hand, the researchers from the U.S. National Cancer Institute said other cancer survivors may have a reduced risk for AML due to a change in chemotherapy agents that occurred decades ago.

One expert not connected to the study stressed that cancer patients need to put the findings into perspective.

"It's important to realize that the risk of developing acute myeloid leukemia related to prior chemotherapy is small and increases with the number of chemotherapy treatments given over time," said Dr. Jonathan Kolitz, chief of hematologic oncology at the North Shore-LIJ Cancer Institute in Lake Success, N.Y.

The study was published online Feb. 14 in the journal Blood.

The findings aren't a big surprise to oncologists.

"It has long been known that some types of chemotherapy are associated with a high risk of developing subsequent leukemia," explained study lead author Lindsay Morton, in NCI's Radiation Epidemiology Branch in the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, in an NCI news release. "The goal of this study was to better understand how cancer patients' risk of developing leukemia has changed over time."

In conducting the study, the researchers assessed the risk for leukemia of more than 426,000 adults who received chemotherapy for cancer diagnosed between 1975 and 2008. Of these patients, 801 went on to develop AML.

Patients who survived non-Hodgkin lymphoma were at greater risk for AML, the team found. According to the researchers, that may be due to prol
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