Two new studies suggest that childhood cancer survivors face a higher than average risk of hospitalization and cognitive challenges later in life.
One study in Denmark tracked more than 33,000 people who had cancer as adolescents or young adults. More than half of the participants were followed for at least 14 years. During the study, these cancer survivors were 38% more likely to be hospitalized than 228,000 similar people who did not have a history of cancer.
A considerably smaller US study followed 80 survivors of the most common type of childhood bone cancer for about 25 years. These participants were found to have worse reading skills, attention spans, memory and other cognitive abilities than 39 similar people without any prior cancer diagnosis.
Cancer survivors had twice as likely a risk of hospitalizations for diseases of blood and blood-forming organs. Cancer survivors were also 69% more likely to be hospitalized for infections and parasitic diseases and had a 63% higher chance of hospitalizations for malignant growths.
The amount of risk varied depending the type of the original tumor. Leukemia survivors were more than twice as likely to be hospitalized as people without a prior cancer diagnosis. Conversely, the odds were 93% high for brain cancer and 87% high after a Hodgkin lymphoma diagnosis.
Researchers examined cognitive skills in survivors of childhood osteosarcoma and found that they lagged their peers without a history of cancer. These findings were surprised because methotrexate has been linked to long-term cognitive problems in other cancer diagnoses.
These findings are important for doctors to plan initiatives to minimize or prevent adverse late effects in survivors of adolescent and young adult cancer.
Doctors now know more accurately what to be aware of or look for in order to offer treatment for late effects caused by the cancer treatment as early as possible.