Radiation raises diabetes risk in cancer survivors

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By Sheilah Downey (sheilahd@foodconsumer.org)

Almost 75 percent of childhood cancer survivors develop a chronic health condition due to their therapies, says a study released today in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Children with cancer who were treated with total body or abdominal radiation have a specific increased risk of developing diabetes, according to the Science Daily report. The findings did not appear to be related to the patient's body mass index or levels of physical activity.

"As a result of their curative therapies," wrote researchers, "childhood cancer survivors face an increased risk of morbidity and mortality."

Diabetes mellitus, the specific type found in the study, "is strongly associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and all-cause death," noted researchers Dr. Lillian R. Meacham of Emory University and AFLAC Cancer Center and Blood Services Disorders Service, and colleagues.

The study also found that 42.4 percent of childhood cancer survivors develop a severe, disabling or life-threatening condition 30 years after diagnosis. Cardiovascular disease was found to be a significant cause of death in the group studied.

Researchers compared the prevalence of diabetes in 8,599 childhood cancer survivors who were diagnosed before the age of 21 between 1970 and 1986.
They also randomly selected 2,936 siblings of the survivors aged 31.5 and 33.4 at follow-up studies.

Of the cancer survivors, 2.5 percent were found to have diabetes while the sibling group reported 1.7 percent. Those who were treated with abdominal radiation were 2.7 times more likely to report diabetes mellitus than those not treated with either radiation. Those who were treated with total body radiation were 7.2 times as likely to report diabetes mellitus, wrote the study's authors.

Researchers also found that survivors diagnosed with cancer before the age of 5 were 2.4 times more likely to report diabetes than those who were diagnosed from ages 15 to 20.

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