Epidemiological study of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) in the province of Manitoba, Canada
A previous population-based study of survival in Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL) patients in the province of Manitoba demonstrated a lower five-year relative survival among CLL patients compared with the age- and gender-adjusted general population. This decreased relative survival was most pronounced among elderly male CLL patients. In this study, we have demonstrated that the reduced five-year relative survival observed in CLL patients compared to the general population of Manitoba may partially be attributed to increased risk of second cancers and non-referral to specialized CLL clinics. The increased risk of second cancers in CLL patients compared to Follicular Lymphoma (FL), a similar indolent B cell malignancy, was only observed after CLL diagnosis indicating that a CLL-specific factor may be responsible for the increased risk of second cancers in these patients. The risk of second cancers is independent of treatment and surveillance bias but is further increased with chemotherapy. A superior outcome in CLL patients who have been referred to the CancerCare Manitoba (CCMB) specialized CLL clinic was observed that was independent of age, gender, treatment and history of previous cancers. This superior outcome was most pronounced in the elderly CLL patients. We propose that CLL patients should be referred to CLL-specific hematologists and, where not possible, that guidelines created by such experts be followed. Appropriate screening for second cancers should be performed during routine follow up of CLL patients.