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Adult Survivors of Childhood Cancer at Risk of Becoming Frail at an Early Age
Date:11/18/2013

Ness, Ph.D., an associate member of the St. Jude Department of Epidemiology and Cancer Control. Exercise can reverse frailty in the elderly, and Ness said this study reinforces the need for survivors to work with their health care providers to become more fit.

Ness said quantifying the extent of frailty among childhood cancer survivors will help the medical community recognize and respond to the unique health needs of this growing population, which includes more than 400,000 U.S. residents. St. Jude is working on strategies to prevent or address the condition in this at-risk group.

These results are just the latest findings from the St. Jude Lifetime Cohort Study (St. Jude LIFE). St. Jude LIFE brings the hospital’s pediatric cancer survivors back to campus for two to three days of medical testing and assessments. The goal is to better understand and address the challenges facing childhood cancer survivors as they age.

The survivors in this study were treated at St. Jude between 1962 and 2003. At least 10 years had passed since their cancer diagnosis when they joined St. Jude LIFE.

This study found frailty was more common among male survivors who smoked, were underweight and whose pediatric cancer treatment included abdominal or pelvic irradiation. In contrast, lifestyle was not associated with frailty risk in female survivors.

Cranial irradiation was associated with a greater likelihood of frailty in men and women. St. Jude is a pioneer in reducing radiation in treatment of childhood cancer, particularly the most common childhood cancer, acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). Rates of frailty were highest among survivors of central nervous system tumors and other solid tumors, including soft-tissue sarcomas.

Work is underway to better understand frailty in childhood cancer survivors, including how it mirrors or differs from age-related frailty.

For example, in the elderly, muscle weakness appears to precede lo
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