GAINESVILLE, Fla. Women who as children got radiation treatment for Hodgkin's disease are almost 40 times more likely than others to develop breast cancer, according to findings from five institutions, including the University of Florida.
The higher the radiation dose, the higher the risk, researchers report. These women are also likely to develop cancer in both breasts.
"Our first priority is always to get rid of the cancer. Our second priority is to do so in a way that preserves the best possible quality of life," said researcher Nancy Mendenhall, M.D., an oncologist with UF's College of Medicine who co-authored a paper detailing the results in the September issue of the International Journal of Radiation Oncology Biology Physics. "These findings tell us we're moving in the right direction with recent changes in treatment that lower radiation dose."
In the past, children with Hodgkin's disease were treated with radiation alone, in relatively high doses to large volumes of the body. Today, doses are half the levels used 20 years ago, smaller portions of the body are treated, and, in many cases, radiation has been replaced by chemotherapy.
"One of the hopes of that strategy is not only are there going to be better cure rates for Hodgkin's disease, but also fewer long-term side effects of therapy," said Kenneth B. Roberts, M.D., an associate professor of therapeutic radiology at Yale University who was not involved in the study.
At the start of 2005, there were almost 76,000 women in the United States who had a history of Hodgkin's disease, according to the National Cancer Institute.
Death rates from Hodgkin's disease have plummeted by more than 70 percent in the last 40 years in the United States, and researchers now focus on reducing the so-called "late effects" of treatment that show up long afterward.
"We expect the future to be better than the past in terms of the likelihood of people
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University of Florida