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Keywords:

  • leukemia in childhood;
  • long-term survivors;
  • antineoplastic agents adverse effects;
  • radiotherapy adverse effects;
  • fertility;
  • birth defects

Abstract

Of all children diagnosed with leukemia in Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden, 981 had discontinued therapy before 1985 and had been followed up annually after cessation of therapy. Progeny was registered and fertility evaluated among survivors who passed age 18 years without a relapse (n = 299).

By April 1989, 48 offspring were registered, one of whom had congenital anomalies. This was no more than expected from the incidence of birth defects in the general population. No childhood malignancies or genetic diseases have so far been diagnosed in the progeny, in the study group, none of the 19 female and 8 male survivors of myeloid leukemias had become parents, and only 4 fathers were reported among the 131 male survivors of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). However, 23 of the 149 females treated for ALL had delivered 41 children. Fertility was measured as cumulative rates of first birth by maternal age. In a Cox regression analysis, cases who had received prophylactic radiation of the central nervous system (CNS) had a lower first birth rate than those without radiation (rate ratio 0.39, 95% CI 0.15–1.00), indicating that doses of 18–24 Gy to the brain may possibly be a risk factor. By using the Norwegian birth cohort of 1966 as a control group, matching the median year of birth for the study subjects, the group of female ALL survivors as a whole was as likely as the general female population to have given birth up to the age of 23.

The first generation of females successfully treated for childhood ALL seems to have a nearly normal reproductive pattern during young adulthood, without increased risk of congenital anomalies in the offspring. However, cranial radiation as CNS prophy laxis may possibly impair subsequent reproduction.