Study Finds Adults Treated for Childhood Cancer Are at Significantly Increased Risk for Chronic Health Problems

Today, many curative therapies allow children with cancer to live into adulthood. However, cancer treatments used in children often have long-term effects and many survivors suffer from at least one chronic illness as adults.

A study published in the June 10 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association found that by age 45, among adult survivors of childhood cancer, there was a 95 percent cumulative presence of one or more chronic health conditions, and slightly more than 80 percent for a disabling or life-threatening chronic condition.

Charles A. Sklar, Director of Memorial Sloan Kettering’s Long-Term Follow-Up Program, was among the researchers who conducted a study to determine, through systematic and comprehensive medical assessments, the general health status of long-term survivors of childhood cancer and the prevalence of treatment complications following treatment.

Investigators found that impaired pulmonary, auditory, cardiac, endocrine, and nervous system function were the most prevalent. Less common but still significant were disorders of the kidney, liver, blood, and skeletal system.

The findings underscore the importance of ongoing health monitoring in adults who survive childhood cancer for conditions such as second cancers and heart disease that if not detected and treated early may result in premature death, as well as for those conditions that if remediated can improve quality of life, such as hearing and vision loss.