Study suggests that child cancer survivors have a legacy of poor health.

  • As they age, survivors of childhood cancer are at greater risk for ill-health.
  • Patients who received radiotherapy or chemotherapy had the greatest health risk.
  • Late health effects were most severe for people living in poorer areas.

A study has shown that survivors of childhood cancer are more likely to develop ill health later in life.

There are different types of cancers and treatments that can increase the risk.

These long-term effects are being highlighted by the researchers.

Survivors of childhood cancer have a higher risk of ill health as they get older. People in the most deprived areas had the highest burden of late health effects (File image)

As they age, survivors of childhood cancer are at greater risk for developing ill-health. Late health effects are more common in those who live in areas that have been most economically disadvantaged (File photo).

According to a University College London study, those with survived cancer were five times more likely to visit a GP for cardiovascular diseases by age 45 than those without it.

Patients also received more care for infections and disorders of their immune systems, as well as subsequent cancers. Radiotherapy and chemotherapy were associated with the highest health risks.

This group was more likely to be admitted to hospital than people who had just undergone surgery. People who had received radiotherapy or chemotherapy were seven times more likely to visit a GP for treatment of cardiovascular disease.

According to the study, they also have a higher risk of developing cancer again and a more advanced form. Alvina, a senior author said that although 80 percent of young children diagnosed with cancer are able to survive, they have special healthcare needs due to the late effects of treatment and cancer.

“It is important that families and healthcare professionals consider the long-term consequences of therapy early, in order to weigh any potential risks against the long-term benefits.

Anonymized health records from 3,466 people who were diagnosed with cancer before age 25 and who lived for at least 5 years were compared to 13,517 patients who didn’t have any cancer.

These two groups were then matched according to criteria such as gender, age and degree of socioeconomic disadvantage. The research was published in The Lancet Regional Health – Europe.

The health records of survivors of cancer were analyzed by researchers starting at age 18 or five years following their diagnosis.

The burden of the 183 mental and physical conditions was compared in both groups. They also looked at how many times each person had been to their doctor or hospital.

A number of other diseases were also included in the analysis. This was done based on the types of cancer and treatment, as well as the dosage.

They found that survivors of cancer who had developed heart disease experienced a loss of average 10 years in life, compared with those who didn’t.

People with infections and diseases of the immune systems lost on average 6.7 years. In addition, 11 years were lost to cancer in the following year.

The highest rates of health complications in late life were found to be among those living in areas most severely deprived. Researchers concluded that targeted policy should promote awareness and education for high-risk populations.

Also, mental illness is a frequent late effect. This suggests that both physical and psychological care are needed.