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Radiation for Childhood Cancer Might Raise Diabetes Risk
Date:8/24/2012

FRIDAY, Aug. 24 (HealthDay News) -- Some childhood cancer survivors who underwent radiation therapy may have an increased risk of developing diabetes later in life, according to a new study that is the first to make a link between radiation and diabetes.

Researchers looked at more than 2,500 people in France and the United Kingdom who had been treated for cancer in childhood between 1946 and 1985, and survived for at least 20 years after undergoing treatment.

At age 45, diabetes had been diagnosed in 6.6 percent of the patients who had undergone radiation therapy and 2.3 percent of those who did not have radiation therapy, the study found.

The researchers determined how the radiation would have been applied to patients and found that the likelihood of being diagnosed with diabetes was much higher when the tail of the pancreas had been exposed to radiation. However, radiation exposure to other parts of the pancreas did not affect diabetes risk.

This difference may be due to the fact that the tail of the pancreas contains a type of cell involved in insulin production, the researchers suggested.

The study also found that people who received higher doses of radiation to the tail of the pancreas were nearly 13 times more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes within 20 years than those who did not receive radiation therapy.

Type of cancer also affected diabetes risk. By age 45, diabetes was diagnosed in nearly 15 percent of patients who had been treated for kidney cancer, compared with an average of 3 percent for other types of cancer included in the study, such as lymphoma.

Radiation therapy for kidney cancer often focuses in the abdominal area, which increases the chance that the tail of the pancreas will be exposed to radiation, the researchers noted.

The study was published online Aug. 23 in The Lancet Oncology.

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