- by Molly C.
My three year old son is in his second year of remission from acute myeloid leukemia. My question is, how likely is it for his sibling to also be diagnosed in the future?
Dr. Lucy Godley
Thank you for this question. The question is generally asking what is the likelihood that a leukemia or other blood cancer is inherited, and we’re learning more and more about inherited risk to blood cancers, this was once thought to be exceedingly rare, but, through the years, we’ve done more and more research, and we understand now that many leukemias and many blood cancers are in fact, inherited, it’s difficult for me to give a specific number in this case, because I don’t have all of the details about what type of leukemia is in this child that the child had, and what the family history is whether there are other cases of blood cancers in the family, or even other solid tumors in the family. So as a very general rule, I would say yes, leukemias and other blood cancers can be inherited. It’s the likelihood is very dependent on that personal and family history. There is a slight higher risk to other children in the family if one person has had a leukemia. And what I would recommend for this family and any other family considering inherited risk is to talk with your pediatrician or your treating oncologist and describe the obviously that person will know the history of this child, but also discuss the other cancers in the family. And your pediatrician or oncologist may refer you to a genetic counselor to actually talk through that family tree with a genetic counselor who’s trained and taking that kind of history. And then once you look at what that history looks like, there can be an assessment of whether the risk is high enough to justify testing for an inherited risk factor for cancer. So as a general answer, I would say there is a slight increased risk for blood cancers in relatives of people who’ve had blood cancers, but the degree of that risk is dependent on the strength of the history in the family. So we need to look at that more deeply with genetic counselors and do very comprehensive testing for these risk factors. So I thank you for the question, and urge you to talk in more detail with people in your treatment program. Thank you