Adult survivors of childhood cancer have increased mortality risk

Survivors of childhood cancer face increased risk for mortality as adults, according to a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine (2010;152(7):409-417).

For the study, Jennifer Yeh, PhD, and colleagues from the Harvard School of Public Health sought out to determine how childhood cancer related to mortality risk on survivor life expectancy. The research team estimated the probabilities of risk for death from the original cancer, excess mortality from subsequent cancer, and background mortality over the lifetime of survivors of childhood cancer. The study cohort included patients who were 5-year survivors of childhood cancer.

The study's findings revealed that a cohort of 5-year survivors aged 15 years who received a diagnosis of cancer at 10 years old had a 10% chance for late-recurrence mortality; 15% chance for treatment-related cancer and death from cardiac, pulmonary, and external causes; and a 5% chance for death from other excess risks.

Furthermore, life expectancy for the cohort of patients who were 15 years old was 50.6 years, which equates to a loss of 10.4 years compared with the general population. Researchers also reported that reduction in life expectancy varied by diagnosis, ranging from 4 years for kidney tumor survivors to more than 17.8 years for brain and bone tumor survivors.

“Childhood cancer survivors face considerable mortality during adulthood, with excess risks reducing life expectancy by as much as 28%,” the authors concluded. “Monitoring the health of current survivors and carefully evaluating therapies with known late toxicities in patients with newly diagnosed cancer are needed.”

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