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Young Survivors Of Childhood Cancer Feel Older Than Their Age

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Childhood cancer survivors may have surpassed an early trial in their life, but this does not mean they are done with health-related challenges. People who survived from childhood cancer feel older than their actual age, research says.

The study conducted by a team of researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Dana-Farber/Boston Children's Cancer and Blood Disorders Center showed that the quality of life of 18-year-old to 29-year-old survivors of childhood cancer is similar to middle-aged people.

"This research provides an easily accessible way to compare adult survivors of childhood cancer to the general population, in terms of their health-related quality of life, which normally declines as people age," said Dr. Lisa Diller from Dana-Farber/Boston Children's Cancer and Blood Disorders Center.

Whether or not a person is in good health condition is based on the person's history of chronic illness. The Childhood Cancer Survivor Study (CCSS) administered to 7,105 childhood cancer survivors aged 18 to 49 showed that only 20 percent of them had no chronic illness.

The researchers found that childhood cancer survivors who did not have chronic health conditions acquired the same score as the general population, while survivors who had chronic illnesses had a low score identical to people with chronic illnesses.

On the other hand, the Medical Expenditures Panel Survey (MEPS) compared the overall quality of life of 12, 803 childhood cancer survivors with that of the general population.

Diller said the findings showed that the survivors' aging accelerated and that the results would help them understand the risks of health associated with having cancer at childhood.

Childhood cancer survivors are at high risk to acquire chronic diseases such as lung disease, kidney and heart disease, and infertility. This is largely caused by the procedures they underwent in their younger years, such as chemotherapy, surgery and radiation sessions.

"If we can prevent treatment-related conditions by changes in the therapy we use for the cancer, then childhood cancer will become an acute, rather than a chronic, illness," Diller said.

The study is published in the Journal of National Cancer Institute (JNCI).

Photo: Brianna Privett | Flickr

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