Treatment advances reduce risk of subsequent cancers among survivors of childhood cancer

Newer, less toxic treatments are effective at curing childhood cancer while reducing the risk of serious side effects and premature death.

Published: 2/1/17

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Newer, less toxic treatments are effective at curing childhood cancer while reducing the risk of serious side effects and premature death. Among the side effects survivors fear the most are second cancers. Have the new therapies succeeded in reducing this risk?

Dr. Lucie Turcotte of the University of Minnesota led a research team to answer this important question. They analyzed medical records of more than 23,000 study participants who were treated over three decades. Acute lymphoblastic leukemia, Hodgkin lymphoma, and astrocytoma (a type of brain tumor) were the most common childhood cancer diagnoses.

Study results: Good news for survivors

The team found that the chance of developing a second cancer by 15 years after a person’s childhood cancer diagnosis decreased by decade of treatment. This means that the chance was smaller for those diagnosed in the 1980s than for those diagnosed in the 1970s and the chance was smaller yet for those diagnosed in the 1990s. For those diagnosed in the 1990s, some risk remained but it was much smaller than for those diagnosed in the 1970s. This decade-by-decade reduction in risk was primarily linked to reductions over time in the dose of radiation therapy.

Dr. Turcotte said that ongoing follow-up of survivors is needed to discover possible future changes in second cancer risk, especially because any cancers that do develop are likely to occur many years after the original childhood diagnosis.

What does this mean for you?

Some of our study participants have already benefitted from the historic improvements in childhood cancer therapies, and many will continue to do so. We owe a debt of gratitude to all of our participants for their continuing dedication to research. This study is yet more evidence that your participation in the Long-Term Follow-Up Study is helping to improve the lives and health of survivors everywhere and for generations to come.

Citation

Turcotte LM, Liu Q, Yasui Y, et al. Temporal trends in treatment and subsequent neoplasm risk among 5-year survivors of childhood cancer, 1970-2015. JAMA. 2017, 317(8):814-824.