More Than 1.5 Million Cancer Survivors Have Kids Under 18

MONDAY, June 28 (HealthDay News) -- More than 1.5 million adult cancer survivors in the United States are parents who live with one or more children younger than 18 years old, finds a new study.

The findings may lead to greater assistance for these patients and their families, said Kathryn Weaver, of Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, N.C., and colleagues.

The researchers analyzed data from 13,385 adult cancer survivors who took part in the United States National Health Interview Survey between 2000 and 2007. They found that about 18% of newly diagnosed cancer survivors and 14% of all U.S. cancer survivors live with one or more of their minor children. The percentages mean that there are about 1.58 million adult cancer survivors living with 2.85 million children under age 18. An estimated 562,000 minor children are living with a parent in the early phases of cancer treatment and recovery.

The study also found that most cancer survivors living with their minor children are female (78.9%), married (69.8%), and under 50 years of age (85.8%). Of the children of cancer survivors, 30.5% were under 6 years of age at the time of their parent's cancer diagnosis and 33.4% were born after the diagnosis.

A cancer diagnosis poses extraordinary challenges for people with young children, including worries about not living to see their children grow up. "Greater awareness of the number and characteristics of cancer survivors living with minor children may facilitate clinical screening and referral efforts, inform public health planning, and stimulate research on these understudied families," the researchers concluded.

The study appears online June 28 in the journal Cancer.

-- Robert Preidt

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SOURCE: American Cancer Society, June 27, 2010, news release.

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