A new study suggests that surviving cancer as a child can make a person look and feel older - here's why.
Children who survive a battle with cancer have a unique lease on life, but a recent study from scientists at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute suggests that they may be more like their senior counterparts than once thought. According to a report from UPI, researchers say that surviving childhood cancer can take a significant toll on a person’s health, making them feel older than peers in their age group.
According to the study’s senior author Dr. Lisa Diller, the chief medical officer at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center, “Our findings indicate survivors’ accelerated aging, and also help us understand the health-related risks associated with having had cancer as a child.”
Diller explained that the lower-than-average quality of life ratings seen in young cancer survivors are often related to chronic diseases following treatment, and not to the cancer itself.
Scientists scanned data from thosuands of children who had survived a battle with cancer from the United States. They found that among the age group of 18 to 29, quality of life scores were comparable to the general population in their 40s. Chronic health problems in childhood cancer survivors were correlated with lower quality of life scores, researchers said.
The study was published yesterday in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. Earlier studies have suggested that children who survive a battle with cancer face a heightened risk of heart disease, pulmonary disease, infertility, as well as further complications with cancer and other chronic diseases. The majority of these conditions are related to common cancer treatments like radiation, chemotherapy and surgery.
“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 Diller. “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.”
A press release from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute describing the details of the study can be found here.