Women who receive chemotherapy for ovarian cancer are 10 to 12 times more likely to develop leukemia than those who only underwent surgery, researchers led by John Kaldor at the International Agency for Research on Cancer in France reported last week in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Patients who undergo chemotherapy for Hodgkin's disease are apparently nine to 14 times more likely to develop leukemia than those who receive only radiation, the researchers also reported.
"In the case of Hodgkin's disease, a substantial risk of leukemia following combination chemotherapy is clearly offset by enormous gains in survival," they said. "However, after ovarian cancer, the extent to which the increased risk of leukemia is offset is still unclear."
The American Cancer Society estimates that there are about 20,000 new cases of ovarian cancer each year in the United States and about 12,000 deaths from the disease.
The study was based on 162 cases of leukemia among 29,552 patients with Hodgkin's disease from 12 registries and six hospitals in Europe and Canada and 114 cases of leukemia among 99,113 ovarian cancer patients from 11 registries and two hospitals.