Reduced radiation leading to fewer secondary cancers in survivors

Survivors of childhood cancers are having fewer secondary cancers, according to new research from the Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota and St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. Researchers believe the difference comes from a reduction in exposure to therapeutic radiation.

Compared with those diagnosed in the 1970s, patients diagnosed after 1990 are experiencing better outcomes, according to the results.

Published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the research was led by the Masonic Cancer Center and the University of Minnesota in partnership with investigators at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, and it utilized data from the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study.

In the study, researchers examined more than 23,000 survivors with a first diagnosis between 1970 and 1999 who had participated in the cohort over time. By looking at long term data, they were able to look at radiation exposure (77 percent in the 1970s vs. 33 percent in the 1990s) and determined the 15-year incidence of subsequent cancers decreased in each decade of the initial diagnosis; those diagnosed in the 1970s saw a 2.1 percent rate of subsequent cancers, while those diagnosed in the 1990s saw 1.3 percent rate.

The team plans to continue researching this issue, focusing on increasing understanding of specific cancer therapy agents and their effects, as well as looking more closely at chemotherapy-radiation interactions impacting secondary cancer risks.

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