Young cancer survivors prone to serious adult health problems, study finds

People who survive cancer in their youth face a significantly higher risk of developing severe and life-threatening chronic health conditions in the long term compared to the general population, according to a study published in The Lancet Oncology.

Researchers used data from the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study, which includes five-year follow-up data of survivors diagnosed with cancer before age 21 at institutions in the U.S. and Canada between 1970 and 1999. They compared data for 5,804 people diagnosed with cancer before age 15 and 5,804 people diagnosed between ages 15 and 21 years to 5,059 siblings of similar ages.

They gathered mortality data using the National Death Index and classified chronic health conditions using the common terminology criteria for adverse events, a product of the U.S. National Cancer Institute.

Researchers found that childhood, early adolescent and young adult cancer survivors face a greater risk of developing severe and disabling, life-threatening or fatal health conditions than their siblings of the same age.

The likelihood of early adolescent and young adult cancer survivors developing a severe health condition by age 45 was 39 percent, compared to 12 percent among siblings of the same age. Among childhood cancer survivors — those diagnosed before age 15 — the likelihood of developing a severe condition by age 45 was 56 percent.

The death risk from any cause among young adult survivors was almost six times higher than those of same age and sex in the general population.

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