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Childhood cancer survivors may face shortened lifespan, study reveals
Date:4/6/2010

BOSTONAlthough more children today are surviving cancer than ever before, young patients successfully treated in the 1970s and 80s may live a decade less, on average, than the general population, according to a study from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Harvard School of Public Health.

Depending on the type of cancer, the estimated loss of life expectancy ranges from four years to more than 17 years, the scientists report in the April 6 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine. Causes of the premature deaths include recurrences of the initial cancer, new cancers caused by drug and radiation therapy, and other delayed complications from cancer treatments.

The study, based on a computer model, is the first to estimate the lifetime toll of childhood cancer and the grueling but increasingly successful treatments for diseases such as kidney and bone cancers, leukemia, and brain tumors. About 10,000 children and adolescents are diagnosed with cancer annually, and the five-year survival rate has risen to about 80 percent overall.

Jennifer Yeh, PhD, a research fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) Center for Health Decision Science and first author of the report, said she was surprised when the analysis projected a 10-year average loss of life expectancy. "For a group of patients fortunate enough to have survived their initial cancer, to still have this considerable extra risk is disheartening," she said.

However, Lisa Diller, MD, clinical director of Pediatric Oncology at Dana-Farber and Children's Hospital Boston, who is the senior author of the paper, said that recent changes in treatments and the increasing use of less-toxic "targeted" therapies may lead to better long-term outcomes in the future.

"The study is based on how children were treated in the 1970s and early 1980s," said Diller, who directs the Perini Family Survivorship Center at Dana-Farber. "It is our hope that when we see data fro
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Contact: Bill Schaller
william_schaller@dfci.harvard.edu
617-632-5357
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Source:Eurekalert

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