Childhood cancer survivors have significant chronic disease risks

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A newly released St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital study of over 1,700 childhood cancer survivors found that 98% of them had at least one chronic disease later in life, such as new cancers, heart disease or abnormal lung function.

We have known for many years that adults who were treated for cancer in childhood have a higher risk for health problems later in life, and that these health problems appear to increase with age. But besides intuition, that was mostly based on surveys instead of actual check-ups in the doctor’s office, and there was no real sense of proportion.

The research, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association was conducted in St. Jude’s LIFE program, a two to three day screening program that brings long-term childhood cancer survivors back to the hospital for regular check-ups throughout their adult lives. This initiative is key to identify health issues early in these at-risk patients but also help doctors identify which screening processes are most helpful and aid in characterizing what patient profiles are at a higher risk for certain diseases.

Here are some of the key results:

  • 80% of survivors have a life-threatening, disabling or serious health condition by age 45
  • 65% of the survivors at risk for lung problems after their treatment had abnormal lung functions
  • 61% of former patients at risk for neurocognitive issues had endocrine problems in areas of the brain like the hypothalamus
  • 56% of survivors had heart abnormalities
  • 48% had memory difficulties

Per the researchers, these findings support:

  • Really understand at-risk patients’ risk for disease in the context of their previous cancer history
  • Detect existing diseases that had not yet been identified and start treating them
  • Continually better tailor treatments to patients so that exposure to radiation from chemotherapy is kept to a minimum
  • Reinforce the need for at-risk former patients to absolutely have regular check-ups throughout their lives
  • Reinforce the necessity to start and/or maintain a healthy lifestyle in order to not exacerbate their risk

Check out the full article at:

Credit photo: St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

* Up for some thought-sharing on this topic?  

Physicians and healthcare providers should absolutely be advocating for healthy/ier lifestyle practices for any patient they see in their practice.
It is even more important to do so for childhood cancer survivors because they already received treatments when their organs were more vulnerable, which put them at risk for types of diseases typically seen in aging populations, like high blood pressure, osteoporosis, high cholesterol…

  • Do you, too, believe that a healthy, balanced, nutritious diet (in opposition to the Standard American Diet) can be an active prevention tool to manage your health and prevent some of the cancers and other possibly (among other things) diet-related diseases?
  • Do you make it a priority to eat a nutritious, balanced, healthy diet and believe it’ll make a difference in the long run, whether you suffered from childhood cancer or not?
  • Do you find enough reinforcement on that front from your general practitioner or other medical sources you see regularly?

Let us know… 


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