Childhood cancer survivors face more health issues

26 May 2016

 Researchers at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead are calling for a more unified international definition of paediatric metabolic syndrome (MetS) to help identify childhood cancer survivors who are more at risk of cardiovascular disease.

The Hospital’s clinicians joined researchers from Sydney University and Sweden’s Linkoping University to conduct a retrospective study of 276 patients who have been cancer free for five years.

Results of the study ‘Metabolic Health in Childhood Cancer Survivors: A Longitudinal Study in Long-Term Follow-Up Clinic’ have been published in the Journal of Adolescent and Young Adult Oncology.

As childhood cancer survival rates continue to improve, the study raises concerns about increasing rates of premature development of cardiovascular disease with metabolic dysfunction an increasingly recognised complication for survivors as they enter adolescence and adulthood.

Advancements in chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgical intervention have significantly improved the five-year childhood cancer survival rate to more than 80%. However, along with this success comes an increase in adverse cognitive, psychosocial and late health effects of cancer treatments for almost 90% of survivors.

These children are twice as likely as their siblings to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes or hypertension and have a fourfold excess mortality from cardiovascular disease. Metabolic health risk factors are also common putting them at risk of premature adverse cardiovascular consequences.

The study’s authors Harriet  Gunn, Hanna Emilsson, Melissa Gabriel, Ann Maguire, and Kate Steinbeck suggest future studies should look at the characteristics that predispose childhood cancer survivors to adverse metabolic health consequences.  An internationally accepted definition for paediatric MetS will also assist early identification and promote early intervention.

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