Therapeutic radiation has
been strongly associated with development of subsequent tumors; however,
links have also been identified between specific chemotherapeutic
agents and the development of tumors. With this information, childhood
cancer treatment has been modified over time with the hope of reducing
subsequent tumor risk, while maintaining or improving five-year survival.
Although the risk of subsequent malignancies for survivors of childhood cancer diagnosed in the 1990s remains increased, the risk is lower compared with those diagnosed in the 1970s, a decrease that is associated with a reduction in therapeutic radiation dose, according to a study appearing in the JAMA.
The Childhood Cancer Survivor Study and other groups of childhood cancer survivors have reported extensively on the incidence of and risk factors for subsequent neoplasms (tumors).
1,639 survivors experienced 3,115 subsequent neoplasms, during an average follow-up of 20.5 years. The most common subsequent malignancies were breast and thyroid cancers. Proportions of individuals receiving radiation decreased (77% for 1970s vs 33% for 1990s), as did median dose.
A 15-year cumulative incidence of subsequent malignancies decreased by decade of diagnosis (2.1% for 1970s, 1.7% for 1980s, 1.3% for 1990s). Relative rates declined with each five-year increment for subsequent malignancies.
Radiation dose changes were associated with reduced risk for subsequent malignancies, meningiomas (a tumor that arises from the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord), and nonmelanoma skin cancers.
"The current analysis, including more than 23,000 survivors of childhood cancer treated over three decades, demonstrated that the cumulative incidence rates of subsequent neoplasms, subsequent malignant neoplasms, meningiomas, and nonmelanoma skin cancers were lower among survivors treated in more recent treatment eras and that modifications of primary cancer therapy were associated with these declines," the authors write.