Childhood Cancer Survivors Have a Greater Risk of Chronic Diseases in Adulthood
Children who develop cancer are unfortunately exposed to different kinds of medicines and radiations at an extremely early age. Due to the frequency of this type of exposure, researchers have looked into the potential side effects that manifest during adulthood. The researchers from the St Jude's Children's Research Hospital found that children who survived cancer have an increased risk of developing at least one chronic disease during their adult life.
"It is not surprising, but it helps quantify what our fears were in this population," says study author Dr. Melissa Hudson according to Time. Hudson is the director of the St. Jude Division of Cancer Survivorship. "We have known for many years that adults who were treated for cancer in childhood have a higher risk for health problems, and these health problems appear to increase as they age."
The researchers used data composed from over 1,700 adults who won the battle against cancer when they were children. The adults had an average age of 33 with the range being between 18 and 60-years-old. The data was compiled through the St. Jude's LIFE Program, which was a two to three day event that asked children cancer survivors to come in for a routine checkup that included basic health examinations, blood tests and x-rays. The purpose of this program is to find better ways of promoting survival rates for cancer survivors. The average amount of years since diagnosis was 26 but it ranged from 11 to 48 years for all survivors.
The researchers found that 98 percent of them had at least one chronic disease. The team also reported that by the age of 45, 80 percent of the survivors were dealing with a threatening disability. 65 percent of the survivors had lung complications and 61 percent had neurocognitive issues tied to endocrine problems. 56 percent had heart issues and 48 percent had memory complications.
"Physicians and healthcare providers should be advocating for healthier lifestyle practices for anyone they see in their practice, but it is particularly important for childhood cancer survivors because they have already had treatments when their organs were more vulnerable that put them at risk for types of diseases we see in aging populations," Hudson emphasized.
The report was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.