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Alert Number 133

Familial CLL: a Reminder

Date: October 19, 2005

The issue of familial CLL will continue to be of intense interest to all of us who deal with CLL and happen to be parents or grandparents as well. To my mind, there is no doubt that CLL (and other forms of leukemia, lymphoma, blood malignancies) run in families. The specific statistics and issues as they pertain to CLL were discussed in detail in a previous article on our website. Not the Worst Day of Your Life is perhaps one of the most often visited articles on this site.

The Reuters report below addresses the same issues. While it does not add any new information over and beyond what we have reported already on our website, it is nevertheless a good reminder to all of us. If there is a “cluster” of blood cancers in your family, please do consider supporting research in this area by supplying family history and blood samples. Our article (link above) gives some of the details of what you can do to help. Write to us if you need additional help in contacting the experts or researchers in this area. If you think it is hard dealing with CLL yourself, just imagine how much harder it would be if a beloved child or grandchild gets a more aggressive form of the disease, at an earlier age. Welcome to the scary world of “anticipation”, where familial CLL may strike succeeding generations at an earlier age and with worse prognostics.

If you don’t want to get involved, who will?

Be well,


Press Report

Family History of Lymphoma Doubles Hematopoietic Cancer Risk

Reuters Health Information 2005. © 2005 Reuters Ltd.

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) Oct 12 - A family history of hematopoietic malignancy roughly doubles a person's risk of developing non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) or Hodgkin lymphoma (HL), a new study shows.

Some findings have suggested that malignant lymphomas are more common among people with a family history of hematopoietic cancer, but much of this research has been limited by small sample size, the use of registry-based data, or reliance on self-reporting for information on family history, Dr. Ellen T. Chang of the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm and her colleagues note in the October 5th issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

To obtain a clearer picture of the magnitude of increased risk, Dr. Cheng and her team put together the largest population-based case-control study of NHL and HL to date, including 1506 patients and 1229 controls linked to the Swedish Multi-Generation Register and the Swedish Cancer Register to identify first-degree relatives with lymphoma. Only people for whom both parents could be identified were included in the study.

The researchers found people with a first-degree relative with malignant lymphoma were at 1.8-fold greater risk of developing a hematopoietic malignancy themselves. Risk was more than tripled among individuals with a sibling with lymphoma, while those with a parent with the disease were at 1.6 times increased risk.

Family history of NHL or chronic lymphocytic leukemia increased the risk of HL and several NHL subtypes, the researchers found, an association that has been identified before. The study also found a link between family history of multiple myeloma and follicular lymphoma risk, which has not previously been reported.

The researchers found no difference in the effect of several environmental factors, such as occupational exposure to organic solvents or pesticides, BMI, cigarette smoking and homosexual intercourse, on NHL risk based on whether the disease was familial or sporadic. Past studies have found such differences, the authors note, but used self-reported family history information. The current findings, they add, "suggest that putative susceptibility genes do not interact with these exposures in the pathogenesis of NHL"

They conclude: "The particular genes that account for the increased genetic risk of NHL, and any other environmental factors with which they may interact, remain to be identified."

J Natl Cancer Inst 2005;97:1466-1474.


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