A new study published in the March issue of The Journal of Pediatrics found that children with Down Syndrome have an estimated 150-fold higher risk of developing acute myeloid leukemia (AML) before the age of five.
Dr. Emily Marlow, PhD, from the University of California (UC) Davis led the study which analyzed data of just over 3.9 million children born from 1996-2016 in the United States and Canada. Leukemia was diagnosed in 124 of the 4401 children with Down syndrome (2.8%) and 1941 of 3,900,998 of the other children (0.05%).
The researchers concluded that Down Syndrome remains a risk factor for the development of childhood AML, and this data shows that the association with AML is stronger than previously reported.
According to Dr. Marlow, “One main strength of this study is its large cohort with more leukemia cases in children with Down syndrome than most previous studies. This allowed more precise risk estimation, especially for rare leukemia types such as AML-7, previously estimated from small case reports.”
Due to the much higher risk of AML in children with Down Syndrome, it is crucial for parents of these children to understand the signs and symptoms of AML and watch for them, especially during the child’s early years. If identified and treated early, AML in children is often treatable.
Signs and symptoms of AML include pale skin, fatigue, frequent infections, easy bleeding or bruising and shortness of breath. A prompt visit to a pediatrician is warranted if children exhibit these symptoms.
Marlow EC, Ducore J, Kwan ML, et al. Leukemia Risk in a Cohort of 3.9 Million Children with and without Down Syndrome. J Pediatr. 2021;S0022-3476(21)00212-2. doi:10.1016/j.jpeds.2021.03.001. 2021 Mar 6.
about the author
Katie joined the HealthTree Foundation as the Community Director for AML in 2021. She is a registered dietitian who previously worked at the VA hospital in Dallas, Texas where she coached veterans with blood cancer on how to use nutrition to improve their treatment outcomes and minimize cancer-related side effects. Katie is passionate about health education and patient empowerment. In her spare time, she loves to experiment with new recipes in the kitchen, spend time running outdoors and travel to new places.