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"The ability to identify patients at increased risk may guide selection of therapeutic protocols that will maximize treatment outcomes while simultaneously minimizing the risk of long-term complications among children diagnosed with cancer," said study co-leader Kirsten Ness, of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis.
The researchers looked at nearly 2,000 people who'd been diagnosed with childhood cancer at least 10 years earlier. They found that almost half who underwent cranial radiation were obese. This compared with just over 29 percent of those who did not receive that type of treatment.
Cranial radiation is used to prevent or delay the spread of cancer to the brain.
The risk of obesity among survivors treated with cranial radiation was highest among those who had also received glucocorticoids -- a type of steroid -- or who were younger at the time of their cancer diagnosis, the study found.
The findings suggest that some childhood cancer survivors require counseling and weight-loss programs, the researchers said. However, the study did not prove that some cancer treatments cause obesity.
The researchers also found that certain variants of genes involved in neuron [brain cell] growth, repair and connectivity were associated with increased risk of obesity among survivors treated with cranial radiation.
Also, survivors who had undergone chest, abdominal or pelvic radiation were half as likely to be obese as those who did not receive those treatments, the researchers found.
The study was published online May 11 in the journal Cancer.
-- Robert Preidt
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