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Kids With Eye Cancer Suffer Few Cognitive Problems as Adults

Update Date: Nov 24, 2014 08:17 PM EST

People who've survived childhood eye cancer have little risk of developing cognitive or social problems, according to a new study.

The latest research involved adult survivors of retinoblastoma, a type of eye cancer that tends to develop in early childhood. Researchers said that these findings offer good news for retinoblastoma patients. However, they noted that it's imperative that patients are screened for long-term effects throughout life.

Lead researcher Tara Brinkman, PhD, of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, and her colleagues studied 69 adult survivors. Participants were on average 33 years old and had been treated for eye cancer an average of 31 years earlier.

Participants underwent cognitive tests and filled out questionnaires. The findings revealed that cancer survivors did not score lower on most cognitive and social evaluations.

However, survivors treated with whole brain radiation scored slower on short-term verbal memory and long-term verbal memory tests. The study also revealed that those diagnosed within the first year of life scored significantly higher on short-term verbal memory, long-term verbal memory, verbal learning, and verbal reasoning tests compared to those diagnosed after at a later age.

"This may be because the area of the brain responsible for processing visual information becomes more adept at processing verbal information following reduced visual input early in life. This suggests the potential of the brain to adapt and reorganize following very early insult," Brinkman said in a news release.

"To our knowledge, this is the first study to report on long-term cognitive and social outcomes in adult survivors of retinoblastoma. Importantly, we found that, as a whole, these survivors are doing quite well," Brinkman concluded.

The findings were published early online in the journal CANCER.

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