Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Public Health

First Advisor's Name

Mehmet T. Dorak

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Marianna K. Baum

Third Advisor's Name

Wasim Maziak

Fourth Advisor's Name

O. Dale Williams


Genetic associations, genetic predisposition to disease, childhood leukemia, iron homeostasis, birth weight

Date of Defense



The cause for childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) remains unknown, but male gender is a risk factor, and among ethnicities, Hispanics have the highest risk. In this dissertation, we explored correlations among genetic polymorphisms, birth characteristics, and the risk of childhood ALL in a multi-ethnic sample in 161 cases and 231 controls recruited contemporaneously (2007-2012) in Houston, TX. We first examined three lymphoma risk markers, since lymphoma and ALL both stem from lymphoid cells. Of these, rs2395185 showed a risk association in non-Hispanic White males (OR=2.8, P=0.02; Pinteraction=0.03 for gender), but not in Hispanics. We verified previously known risk associations to validate the case-control sample. Mutations of HFE (C282Y, H63D) were genotyped to test whether iron-regulatory gene (IRG) variants known to elevate iron levels increase childhood ALL risk. Being positive for either polymorphism yielded only a modestly elevated OR in males, which increased to 2.96 (P=0.01) in the presence of a particular transferrin receptor (TFRC) genotype for rs3817672 (Pinteraction=0.04). SNP rs3817672 itself showed an ethnicity-specific association (Pinteraction=0.02 for ethnicity). We then examined additional IRG SNPs (rs422982, rs855791, rs733655), which showed risk associations in males (ORs=1.52 to 2.60). A polygenic model based on the number of polymorphic alleles in five IRG SNPs revealed a linear increase in risk (OR=2.00 per incremental change; P=0.002). Having three or more alleles compared with none was associated with increased risk in males (OR=4.12; P=0.004). Significant risk associations with childhood ALL was found with birth length (OR=1.18 per inch, P=0.04), high birth weight (>4,000g) (OR=1.93, P=0.01), and with gestational age (OR=1.10 per week, P=0.04). We observed a negative correlation between HFE SNP rs9366637 and gestational age (P=0.005), again, stronger in males (P=0.001) and interacting with TFRC (PPinteraction=0.05). Our results showed that (i) ALL risk markers do not show universal associations across ethnicities or between genders, (ii) IRG SNPs modify ALL risk presumably by their effects on iron levels, (iii) a negative correlation between an HFE SNP and gestational age exists, which implicates an iron-related mechanism. The results suggest that currently unregulated supplemental iron intake may have implications on childhood ALL development.



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