Risks Identified for Childhood Cancer Survivors

Connie K. Ho for redOrbit.com

Chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery are just a few of the treatments cancer patients undergo. These treatments may be risky, especially for those who are diagnosed with cancer at a young age. A new study led by Dr. Chaya Moskowitz included data that showed women who were treated with radiation to the chest for childhood cancer had a greater chance of developing breast cancer that was similar to women who had BRCA1/2 mutations.

The study was revealed at the 2012 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting. The ASCO is a professional organization for physicians who treat cancer. They are focused on research, education, prevention, and delivery of high quality patient care for those who suffer from cancer.

“Previous studies have shown that women treated with radiation to the chest for childhood cancer have an increased risk for breast cancer, but ours is the first to demonstrate that their risk is comparable to women with BRCA mutations,” explained Moskowitz in a prepared statement. “While most women are aware that hereditary mutations can increase their risk for breast cancer, few are aware that radiation to the chest can also increase this risk, including the women who themselves were treated.”

Researchers studied data from over 1,200 female cancer survivors who were involved in the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study (CCSS) and 4,570 female first-degree relatives of women who were part of the Women’s Environmental Cancer and Radiation Epidemiology (WECARE) Study. The team discovered that breast cancer incidences by the age of 50 for women who underwent chest radiation for childhood cancer was 24 percent, as compared to 31 percent of women who were found to be BRCA1/2 carriers. 30 percent of survivors of Hodgkin Lymphoma, who were also treated with high doses of radiation, reported breast cancer incidences by the same age.

“It’s not just survivors of Hodgkin lymphoma who are at risk of developing breast cancer but survivors of other childhood cancers typically treated with more-moderate doses of radiation,” noted Moskowitz in the statement. “The issue is not just the dose of radiation. The volume of breast tissue that is exposed to radiation is also a critical factor.”

According to recommendations by the Children´s Oncology Group, women who have been treated with radiation of 20 Gy or higher to the chest should participate in breast cancer surveillance with an annual mammogram and breast MRI when they are 25 years of age or eight years after receiving radiation (whichever occurred last).

“We find that by age 50, approximately 30 percent of women treated with radiation for Hodgkin lymphoma as girls have developed breast cancer,” Moskowitz, who is a biostatistician at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, told Fox News.

The study reported that women who had received lower doses of radiation were also at risk for breast cancer and should receive breast cancer screenings.

“The important thing is, they’ve survived the cancer that might have killed them as children, but they now should be closely followed to catch any second cancers early, when they are most treatable,” concluded Moskowitz in the Fox News article. “They’re a group that may be vulnerable.”

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