Atopic disease is hypothesized to be protective against several malignancies, including childhood/adolescent leukemia. To summarize the available epidemiologic evidence, the authors performed a meta-analysis of associations between atopy/allergies, asthma, eczema, hay fever, and hives and childhood/adolescent leukemia, acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), and acute myeloid leukemia (AML). They searched MEDLINE literature (1952-March 2009) and queried international experts to identify eligible studies. Ten case-control studies were included. Summary odds ratios and 95% confidence intervals were computed via random-effects models. Odds ratios for atopy/allergies were 1.42 (95% confidence interval (CI): 0.60, 3.35) for 3 studies of leukemia overall, 0.69 (95% CI: 0.54, 0.89) for 6 studies of ALL, and 0.87 (95% CI: 0.62, 1.22) for 2 studies of AML, with high levels of heterogeneity detected for leukemia overall and ALL. Inverse associations were observed for ALL and asthma (odds ratio (OR) = 0.79, 95% CI: 0.61, 1.02), eczema (OR = 0.74, 95% CI: 0.58, 0.96), and hay fever (OR = 0.55, 95% CI: 0.46, 0.66) examined separately. Odds ratios for ALL differed by study design, exposure data source, and latency period, indicating that these factors affect study results. These results should be interpreted cautiously given the modest number of studies, substantial heterogeneity, and potential exposure misclassification but are useful in designing future research.
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