Leukemia is the most common childhood cancer. Although advances in treatment have led to high cure rates of childhood leukemia, researchers are still investigating some of the risk factors that lead to this acute cancer. One such risk factor is Down syndrome.
If your child has Down syndrome, that does not automatically mean they will develop leukemia. But it’s important to be aware of the risk factors and discuss possible signs with their pediatrician.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that
For a while now, medical experts have recognized
Research shows that there’s also an increased risk of your child developing leukemia if they have Down syndrome. This includes both acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and acute myeloid leukemia (AML).
Medical professionals think that certain genes may be linked, particularly acquired JAK2 mutations and CRLF2 alterations. The combination of JAK2 and CRLF2 is seen in a
Overall, children with Down syndrome have a higher chance of developing leukemia.
It’s estimated that leukemia develops in 0.05 percent of children without Down syndrome.
One large retrospective study (retrospective studies typically compare two groups of people: one group with the disease, and one group without the disease ) published in 2021 found that AML is more common in children with Down syndrome than previously thought.
Down syndrome may also be linked to a rare, leukemia-like condition during your child’s
Symptoms of leukemia tend to be the same in children with or without Down syndrome. It’s especially important to be aware of these symptoms because children with Down syndrome have an increased risk of this cancer.
Signs of childhood leukemia may include:
If your child continues to have infections, or if a current infection does not get better, it’s important to speak with their doctor.
It’s also important to reduce your child’s exposure to imaging tests that contain radiation as much as possible. These include X-rays and CT scans, which may further increase your child’s risk of leukemia. Ask your child’s doctor about ultrasounds or MRI scans instead.
Your child’s doctor can also do blood tests to help confirm childhood leukemia. Based on the results, they may refer your child to a pediatric oncologist, who specializes in cancer diagnoses and treatments.
Treatment for leukemia is the same for both children with and without Down syndrome. A doctor will make treatment recommendations based on your child’s subtype and severity of leukemia.
- stem cell transplant (which is combined with chemotherapy)
- radiation therapy
- biologics (targeted therapies that change the way the cells behave or strengthen the immune system)
If your child receives a leukemia diagnosis, you may want to know how to navigate your next steps.
While you’re helping your child with their cancer treatments and symptoms, it’s important to reach out for support for yourself, too. Options include support groups, one-on-one therapy sessions, or social media groups dedicated to parents who have children with leukemia.
You can also ask your doctor for resources or call the American Cancer Society’s information hotline at 1-800-227-2345.
Children with leukemia typically have a high survival rate. About
Researchers also point to a higher relapse rate in children with Down syndrome.
While genetic mutations can vary between cancer cases, observational studies suggest a less favorable outlook for children with IKZF1 deletions. It’s estimated that about
AML is not as common as ALL in children, but the risk is higher if your child has Down syndrome. AML itself also has a lower outlook compared with ALL. But the outlook is still positive overall for children diagnosed before the
Regardless of subtype, the outcomes for childhood leukemia are best when you seek early treatment for your child.
Children with Down syndrome are at a higher risk of developing leukemia. It’s important to be on the lookout for possible signs of leukemia in your child so that you can seek early diagnosis and treatment as appropriate.
Overall, children with leukemia have a high survival rate. The outlook is best for children who are treated early.