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Radiation Therapy Affects Childhood Cancer Survivors

Young patients who underwent radiation have increased risk of brain and spinal column tumors

THURSDAY, Nov. 2 (HealthDay News) -- Childhood cancer survivors who were treated with radiation may face an increased risk of brain and spinal column tumors, according to a report in the Nov. 1 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Joseph P. Neglia, M.D., of the University of Minnesota School of Medicine in Minneapolis, and colleagues studied 14,361 five-year survivors of childhood cancer and identified subsequent central nervous system primary neoplasms in 116 of them. Forty of these were gliomas, which developed a median of nine years after the original diagnosis.

The researchers found that radiation exposure was associated with an increased risk of subsequent glioma (odds ratio, 6.78) and that the dose response for the excess relative risk was linear (slope, 0.33 per Gy). They also found that the highest excess relative risk was in children who were exposed to radiation when they were younger than age 5. The researchers recommend prolonged follow-up of all childhood cancer survivors, especially those exposed to radiation.

"By identifying persons at high risk of long-term treatment effects, it may be possible to reduce the growing number of patients who develop secondary malignancies by individualizing treatment," states the author of an accompanying editorial.

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