Blood cancer risk higher than expected in kids with Down syndrome

New York, Apr 7 (IANS): The risks of acute myeloid leukemia (AML)-- a type of blood cancer -- in children with Down syndrome is stronger than expected, according to a new study.

The study led by researchers from the University of Chicago, Davis Health and San Francisco, examined medical data of more than 3.9 million children born between 1996-2016 in seven US healthcare systems or in Ontario, Canada.

It showed that 2.8 per cent of children with Down syndrome were diagnosed with leukemia, compared to 0.05 per cent of other children.

Compared to other children, kids with Down syndrome had a higher risk of AML before 5 years of age and a higher risk of acute lymphoid leukemia (ALL) regardless of age.

In children with Down syndrome, ALL was more common between ages 2-4 years, while AML was more common in younger kids -- the highest during the first year of life.

For other children, AML incidence remained very low through 14 years, whereas ALL peaked at 3 years and steadily declined until 8 years.

Further, male children were more likely to be diagnosed with Down syndrome and more likely to develop leukemia than their counterparts, revealed the findings published in The Journal of Pediatrics.

"The good news is that childhood leukemia can be very treatable if caught early," said Diana L Miglioretti, Professor at the UC Davis Department of Public Health Sciences.

The researchers urged parents of kids with Down syndrome to keep an eye for signs of leukemia. Common symptoms include fatigue or pale skin, infections and fever, easy bleeding or bruising, shortness of breath and coughing. Parents are advised to talk to the pediatrician if their children exhibit any of these symptoms.

Moreover, exposure to higher levels of radiation such as CT scanning have shown increases in leukemia risk.

"Given the potential for ionising radiation to increase leukemia risk in children with Down syndrome, other non-ionizing radiation modes of imaging, such as ultrasound and MRI, should be used as the first line image tests," said Rebecca Smith-Bindman, professor at UCSF.



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