Young Cancer Survivors At Risk for 2nd Cancers, Study Finds

Beating cancer as a child doesn’t necessarily mean the disease is gone for good. In fact, a recently released study is shedding light on the potential need for young cancer survivors to undergo a lifetime of screenings to help detect other cancers that may form in later life. The study found that young survivors are at an increased risk for future cancer development; not necessarily related to a relapse of the original cancer.

The study involved analysis of U.S. National Cancer Institute data related to patients who had survived cancer before the age of 40. Over the course of 30 years, almost 14 percent of survivors developed a second form of cancer. The typical presentation of the second cancer was in the first 15 years after the initial battle. All told, researchers found that young cancer survivors – those treated between the ages of 15 and 39 – were about 60 percent more likely to develop cancer than the general population. People who were treated for cancer after the age of 40 were only about 10 percent more likely to develop another form of the disease.

Researchers also found some cancers were more typical than others to develop as second cancer. They included genital, breast and gastrointestinal cancers. Patients who received radiation therapy during their original cancer treatment were also more likely to develop a second cancer. The figures were 17 percent compared to 12 percent. Out of the total group of 7,384 patients studied who developed a second cancer about 1,195 also developed a third.

The bottom line for young cancer patients is the need to continue with follow-up appointments on a lifelong basis, researchers say. The special health care needs do not necessarily go away with a successful battle of the first disease. Monitoring for secondary forms of the disease should be a priority going forward.

People who are concerned about cancer are urged to speak with their healthcare providers. Personal physicians are best positioned to help assess risks.

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