Associations between vaccination and childhood cancers in Texas counties

Melissa Pagaoa, The University of Texas School of Public Health


Background. In Dr. Mel Greaves "delayed-infection hypothesis," postponed exposure to common infections increases the likelihood of childhood cancer. Hygienic advancements in developed countries have reduced children's exposure to pathogens and children encounter common infectious agents at an older age with an immune system unable to deal with the foreign antigens. Vaccinations may be considered to be simulated infections as they prompt an antigenic response by the immune system. Vaccinations may regulate the risk of childhood cancer by modulating the immune system. The aim of the study was to determine if children born in Texas counties with higher levels of vaccination coverage were at a reduced risk for childhood cancer. Methods. We conducted a case-control study to examine the risk of childhood cancers, specifically leukemia, brain tumors, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma, in relation to vaccination rates in Texas counties. We utilized a multilevel mixed-effects regression model of the individual data from the Texas Cancer Registry (TCR) with group-level exposure data (i.e., the county- and public health region-level vaccination rates). Results. Utilizing county-level vaccination rates and controlling for child's sex, birth year, ethnicity, birth weight, and mother's age at child's birth the hepatitis B vaccine revealed negative associations with developing all cancer types (OR = 0.81, 95% CI: 0.67–0.98) and acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) (OR = 0.63, 95% CI: 0.46–0.88). The decreased risk for ALL was also evident for the inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) (OR = 0.67, 95% CI: 0.49–0.92) and 4-3-1-3-3 vaccination series (OR = 0.62, 95% CI: 0.44-0.87). Using public health region vaccine coverage levels, an inverse association between the Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) vaccine and ALL (OR: 0.58; 95% CI: 0.42–0.82) was present. Conversely, the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine resulted in a positive association with developing non-Hodgkin lymphoma (OR = 2.81, 95% CI: 1.27–6.22).

Subject Area

Public health|Epidemiology

Recommended Citation

Pagaoa, Melissa, "Associations between vaccination and childhood cancers in Texas counties" (2009). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI1462290.