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Childhood Cancer Survivors at Increased Risk of Developing Subsequent Cancers

Marissa Murtaugh
Published Online: Tuesday, July 5, 2011
Gregory T. Armstrong, MD, MSCE
Gregory T. Armstrong, MD, MSCE
A study published last week from the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study led by St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital has identified new cancer risks for childhood cancer survivors.

The research project, which represents the largest study to date of adult childhood cancer survivors, found that 10% of childhood cancer survivors will battle various forms of the disease over the course of their lifetime. The study tracked 14, 358 individuals enrolled in the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study. Researchers from St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital reported that 1382 survivors (9.6%,) developed new tumors unrelated to their original cancers. Of the 1382 patients, 386 (30%) developed a third tumor. Four or more tumors were reported in 153 survivors in the study.

“These findings show that when you describe adult survivors of childhood cancer it is not sufficient to describe their risk of a first subsequent cancer, but to acknowledge that some of these patients are at risk for multiple cancers. This is the first study to fully enumerate that risk,” noted the study’s principal investigator, Gregory T. Armstrong, MD, MSCE, an assistant member of St. Jude’s department of epidemiology and cancer control.

The study results emphasize the importance of screenings in a growing population of cancer survivors. Today there is an estimated 336,000 survivors of childhood cancer alive in America, and with the long-term survival rates for this population now at 80%, the number of survivors is only expected to grow.

“Too often, survivors still are not getting these important cancer screening tests beginning as early or as often as recommended,” said Armstrong.

This study was launched in 1994 to recognize the challenges of facing childhood cancer survivors and to develop new methods to ease or prevent late effects. Seventy percent of the survivors observed over the course of the study received radiation as part of their childhood cancer treatment. Results from this study confirmed previous research that linked radiation therapy to an increased risk of developing additional tumors later in life.

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