Many Childhood Cancer Survivors Face Chronic Conditions in Adulthood

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About 70 percent of adults who survived cancer in childhood have a mild or moderate chronic condition.
About 70 percent of adults who survived cancer in childhood have a mild or moderate chronic condition.

About 70 percent of adults who survived cancer in childhood have a mild or moderate chronic condition, and nearly one-third have a severe, disabling, or life-threatening condition, according to a new study published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

Siobhan Phillips, Ph.D., an assistant professor of preventive medicine at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, and colleagues examined information collected between 1975 and 2011 from two large cancer studies that included 26 cancer centers in North America.

Today, an estimated 388,501 survivors of childhood cancer are living in the United States. "This is an increase of 59,849 from the previous estimate made in 2005," Phillips told HealthDay.

Of these survivors, 83.5 percent had survived five or more years after diagnosis. Approximately 70 percent of survivors were found to have a mild or moderate chronic condition, while 32 percent were found to have a serious, disabling, life-threatening chronic condition.

"An estimated 35 percent of the survivors, ages 20 to 49, had thinking or developmental problems, and about 13 to 17 percent of those in this age group had functional impairment, activity limitations, impaired mental health, pain, or anxiety and fear," according to Phillips.

RELATED: Morbidity Remains Higher for Childhood Cancer Survivors

"The fact that many of the indicators of the chronic conditions we examined increased with age was not altogether surprising. However, when you look at the age of these survivors, the magnitude of these conditions at relatively young ages is quite striking," Phillips said.

Typically, these health conditions wouldn't be expected to be a problem until people are much older. "Therefore, it is important to understand how we can help prevent and lower the risk of chronic conditions and compromised functioning in this population," she added.


  1. Phillips, Siobhan M., et al. "Survivors of Childhood Cancer in the United States: Prevalence and Burden of Morbidity." Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. doi: 10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-14-1418. April 2015.

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