Research Reveals A Link Between Childhood Cancer And Heart Health As An Adult

Adult survivors of childhood cancer who underwent chemotherapy or radiation treatments have a higher risk of developing heart conditions compared to other adults. However, they are less likely to be treated for heart problems, according to a recent study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, per HealthDay News. The study's authors note that 500,000 adults fall into this category.

The study followed 600 adult participants from North America who were diagnosed with childhood cancer before the age of 21 between 1970 and 1990 and survived at least five years. The results showed that the participants had higher rates of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes compared to adults who did not have a history of childhood cancer. Study lead author Dr. Eric Chow explained that the findings of the study will help raise awareness of the fact that adult survivors of childhood cancer need to monitor their heart health with greater scrutiny. Doing so in partnership with their primary care physicians can mitigate their increased risks, per HealthDay News. 

Childhood cancers: causes and treatments

According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the most common types of cancer in the United States among children up to 19 years old are leukemias, central nervous system (CNS) and brain tumors, and lymphomas. In early 2018, there were roughly 483,000 survivors of childhood and adolescent cancer in the United States. The NCI expects the survival rate to rise due to the increase in diagnoses and an improved outlook due to treatment innovations.

Unfortunately, however, scientists have not yet pinpointed clear causes for childhood cancer. A small percentage of cancers in children are due to an inherited mutation, but identifying the causes for most other childhood cancers remains difficult. Cancers develop in children, as with adults, due to uncontrolled cell growth, but health experts cannot often find a clear connection between what a child has been exposed to in the environment and the development of cancer.

Given that cancer in children cannot always be treated using the same approaches that doctors apply to adults, pediatric oncology specialists are trained to provide unique care and effective treatments specifically designed for children and adolescents. In the meantime, researchers continue their work on childhood cancers through clinical trials, which allow them to learn and develop better treatments, per NCI.