Since 2000, patients treated for esophageal, prostate and cervical cancer were also found to be at greater risk for AML, the researchers say. The study also showed that those treated for cancer since the 1990s for cancers of the bones and joints, as well as the endometrium (uterine lining), are also at increased risk for AML.
Meanwhile, patients treated for ovarian cancer, myeloma, and possibly lung cancer may be at reduced risk for AML. The researchers suggested the lower risk among patients with these forms of cancer may be linked to a treatment switch that occurred in the early 1980s from an agent called melphalan to newer, platinum-based chemotherapy.
More research is needed to determine the risks associated with various chemotherapy agents, the researchers said.
For his part, Kolitz said that it is "gratifying to see that the likelihood of developing leukemia from the treatment of several of the studied cancers actually fell over the last decade, very likely because of decreased use of drugs that are most potently [linked to leukemia risk]."
Another expert agreed that the overall risk to any one cancer patient is small.
"This study confirms that a very small number of patients may be at risk for the development of a second cancer due to the effects of chemotherapy," said Dr. William Carroll, a pediatric oncologist at NYU Langone Medical Center, in New York City.
"Patients should always ask their doctor about the risk of serious side effects associated with particular parts of therapy, and whether agents with fewer side effects can be substituted without compromising the best chance for cure," said Carroll, who is also director of the NYU Cancer Institute and a professor at the NYU School of Medicine.
"Finally," he added, "it is increasingly clear that certain patients may be more likely to experience certain side effects based
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