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Fatigue and sleep woes worsen neurocognitive problems in childhood cancer survivors
Date:4/11/2011

Fatigue and sleep problems dramatically reduce the thinking and reasoning abilities of adults who survived childhood cancer, according to new research from the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study. Researchers hope the findings will lead to new strategies for improved neurocognitive functioning in this growing population. The work was led by St. Jude Children's Research Hospital investigators.

This is the first study to show that childhood cancer survivors are particularly vulnerable to impaired memory, emotional control, organization and related neurocognitive skills due to fatigue and sleep problems. The link was independent of the survivor's age, sex or cancer treatment.

"While no one functions quite as well when sleep deprived or fatigued, most adults get by. But that is not always the case for survivors, who might already be at greater risk for neurocognitive problems as a result of their cancer treatment," said Kevin Krull, Ph.D., the study's corresponding author and an associate member of the St. Jude Department of Epidemiology and Cancer Control. St. Jude investigators led the study, results of which appear in the April 11 online edition of the journal Cancer.

The impact of sleep difficulties and fatigue on neurocognitive functioning, including the ability to think quickly, was comparable to side effects associated with high-dose cranial irradiation therapy, Krull said.

"Rates of sleep disturbance were not substantially higher among cancer survivors, but cancer survivors who are already at risk for cognitive problems have a three- to four-fold increase of those problems when they are sleep deprived or fatigued," Krull said. This study compared cancer survivors to healthy siblings. Impaired cognitive functioning was defined as scoring in the bottom 10 percent on validated tests that measure thinking and reasoning abilities.

"These problems can profoundly impact a survivor's life," said Krull. Cognitive pr
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Contact: Summer Freeman
summer.freeman@stjude.org
901-595-3061
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital
Source:Eurekalert

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