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The new study included more than 3,000 people who survived childhood cancer for five years or more. More than 12 percent had changes in one of 156 genes linked to increased risk of cancer, the findings showed.
By age 45, more than one-quarter of the people had developed another cancer, most commonly meningioma (brain tumor), thyroid cancer, breast cancer and non-melanoma skin cancer, according to the study.
The report was scheduled for presentation Monday at an American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) meeting in Washington, D.C. Research presented at medical meetings should be considered preliminary until it is published in a peer-reviewed journal.
"The remarkable advances realized over the past four decades in the treatment and survival of pediatric cancer patients is one of the most notable success stories within the cancer field," co-senior study author Les Robison said in an AACR news release. Robison is chairman of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital's department of epidemiology and cancer control in Memphis, Tenn.
"However, childhood cancer survivors are at increased risk of [additional cancers], largely considered to be therapy-related," he added.
Many types of childhood cancer have cure rates of more than 80 percent, and there are now more than 400,000 long-term survivors of childhood cancer in the United States, Robison noted.
While radiation therapy puts them at risk of developing cancers in such areas as the brain, skin, breast, thyroid and connective tissue, this study shows that genetics independently increase the risk for breast cancer, thyroid cancer and sarcomas, Robison said. Sarcomas are tumors that commonly grow in connective tissue, such as the bones, muscles and tendons.
"Our findings have immediate implications for the growing population of long-term survivors of childhood cancer," he said.
The study authors recommend that people who develop specific types of abnormal tissue growth receive genetic counseling.
Robison said the researchers believe the study findings will lead to personalized treatment recommendations based on genetic profiles for children who are newly diagnosed with cancer.
Study co-lead author Zhaoming Wang said more research is needed to understand the possible links between genetic factors and exposure to cancer treatments. In addition, Wang, also with St. Jude's department of epidemiology and cancer control, suggested that further study is needed to replicate the new findings.
-- Robert Preidt
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