Thanks to results from a newly released study based at St. Jude, doctors have fresh data on the long-assumed link between using radiation to treat children with cancer and the higher likelihood those patients will develop new cancers later in life.
The study looked at cancer survivors from the 1970s to the 1990s. The findings, published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association, showed that the percentage of pediatric cancer patients treated with radiation fell from 77 percent to 33 percent and radiations doses were lowered.
Those decreases, in turn, meant that the chances of those patients facing a second cancer within 15 years of their first cancer also fell.
“Eighty-four percent of children will become five-year survivors of their primary cancer. That’s awesome,” said Dr. Gregory Armstrong, a member of the St. Jude Department of Epidemiology and Cancer Control.
The federally funded study, based in Memphis at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, included more than 23,000 cancer survivors treated at 27 medical centers in the U.S. and Canada. Among its other findings:
• The cumulative incidence of another cancer diagnosis within 15 years dropped from 2.1 percent for survivors from the 1970s to 1.3 percent for survivors from the 1990s.
• Treatment changes have reduced, but not completely eliminated, the risk of additional cancers. Survivors from the 1970s were about six times more likely than others their age and sex to be diagnosed with cancer, while in the 1990s, survivors were four times as likely.
According to estimates from the National Cancer Institute, the U.S. is home to more than 388,000 survivors of childhood cancer.
“This study reinforces something people had assumed to be true – that we know radiation that cures your first cancer causes second and third cancers down the road,” Armstrong said. “This study shows that in the more modern eras, in the 1990s, when we reduced the number of patients getting radiation, we reduced the doses of radiation, that those survivors are now going to live longer. It’s sort of the proof of principle.”
Read more at Study Shows Radiation Raises Risk Of Future Cancer