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Childhood Cancer Survivors at Increased Risk of Heart Disease

By Rachel Stockton 

Childhood cancer survivors are more likely to develop heart disease, according to the British Journal website.

For the study, 14,000 pediatric cancer survivors were studied, many of whom had cardiac ramifications some thirty years after their cancer treatment ended.

David Mulrooney, lead author of the study suggests that pediatric cancer survivors be clinically monitored on an ongoing basis, especially as they approach the age in which heart conditions are more likely.

US Research

Another study, conducted by Emory University, has shown similar results.

In this particular study, researchers analyzed 8,000 participants in the National Childhood Cancer study and 3,000 of their siblings.

Researchers found that pediatric survivors were 10 times more likely to develop cardiovascular diseases than those who did not develop cancer in childhood.

Specifically, cancer survivors had an increased risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol levels, all of which contributed to their cardiovascular risks.  In study the siblings, scientists found that the survivors were two times more likely to be on high blood pressure medication than their siblings.  They were 60 and 70 percent more likely to have diabetes and to be obese, respectively.

National Cancer Institute Statistics

Childhood survivors suffer a number of late effects of the disease, according to the National Cancer Institute; the following are the most common:

·         Organs, bones, or body tissues.

·         Mood, feelings, and actions.

·         Thinking, learning, and memory.

The NCI explains that chemotherapy and radiation treatments in children occur while the organs and tissues are still developing and rapidly dividing.  Cancer treatments attack cancerous cells which also divide rapidly.  The result is that the organs and tissues which are affected may not develop normally.  These complications can be mild or serious and may present themselves within a few months of treatment, or years later.

Whether or not a pediatric cancer survivor will develop complications depends on how old the child is, where the cancer was located, and the kind of treatment administered.

The NCI recommends that pediatric cancer survivors be monitored and followed up on by experts in the late effects of childhood cancer.   Parents and caregivers are urged to keep all of the records pertaining to diagnosis, treatment and prognosis readily accessible to give those conducting follow up examinations.

More information on the Childhood Survivor Study may be found in the journal Cancer Epidemiological, Biomarkers and Prevention.