BACKGROUND Viruses (such as Epstein-Barr virus) and pathological conditions (mainly involving immunosuppression) have been shown to increase the risk of haematolymphopoietic malignancies. Other associations (diabetes, tonsillectomy, autoimmune diseases) have been inconsistently reported.
METHODS The association between different haematolymphopoietic malignancies (lymphomas, myelomas and leukaemias) and the previous medical history has been studied in a population-based case-control investigation conducted in Italy, based on face to face interviews to 2669 cases and 1718 population controls (refusal rates 10% and 19%, respectively). Controls were a random sample of the general population.
RESULTS Previous findings were confirmed concerning the association between non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL) and lupus erythematosus (odds ratio, OR=8.4; 95% CI 1.6, 45), tuberculosis (OR=1.6; 1.05, 2.5) and hepatitis (1.8; 1.4, 2.3). An association was found also between NHL and maternal (OR=2.8; 1.1, 6.9) or paternal tuberculosis (OR=1.7; 0.7, 3.9). Odds ratios of 4.0 (1.4, 11.8) and 4.4 (1.1, 6.6) were detected for the association between NHL and Hodgkin's disease, respectively, and previous infectious mononucleosis, but recall bias cannot be ruled out. No association was found with diabetes, tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy. An association with malaria at young age and “low grade” lymphatic malignancies is suggested. One interesting finding was the observation of four cases of poliomyelitis among NHL patients, one among Hodgkin's disease and one among myeloid leukaemia patients, compared with none among the controls (Fisher's exact test for NHL and Hodgkin's disease, p= 0.03, one tail).
CONCLUSIONS Some of these findings are confirmatory of previous evidence. Other observations, such as the putative role of the polio virus and of malaria are new. A unifying theory on the mechanisms by which previous medical history may increase the risk of haematolymphopoietic malignancies is still lacking.
- medical history
- infectious mononucleosis
- polio virus
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Funding: the Italian multicentre study on haematolymphopoietic malignancies has been funded by the US National Cancer Institute (CA51086).
Conflicts of interest: none.