Young cancer survivors face risks later
Childhood-cancer treatment is one of the success stories of the late 20th century. A child diagnosed with cancer in the 1970s had a 56 percent chance of surviving for 5 years. Today, that likelihood is nearly 80 percent. With that gain, however, doctors have noticed that cancer survivors seem prone to other life-threatening medical problems later. Recent studies confirm that survivors face a heightened danger of heart problems or another bout with cancer. In a cruel twist, the youngest cancer patients often face the greatest risk.
Up to 5 percent of childhood-cancer survivors get second cancers. That's several times the cancer risk that people in the general population face, National Cancer Institute data show.
While some subsequent tumors are recurrences of the primary cancer, many are new tumors biologically unrelated to the first one. Such a change suggests to scientists that either a child's original treatment contributed to the second cancer or that the person had