Certain treatments may increase a childhood cancer survivor’s risk of obesity later in life, according to research published in Cancer.

The researchers looked at 1,996 people who’d been diagnosed with childhood cancer at least 10 years earlier. They found that almost half who underwent cranial radiation were obese.

This compared with just over 29 percent of those who did not receive that type of treatment. The risk of obesity among survivors treated with cranial radiation was highest among those who had also received glucocorticoids or who were younger at the time of their cancer diagnosis.

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The researchers also found that certain variants of genes involved in neuron growth, repair and connectivity were associated with increased risk of obesity among survivors treated with cranial radiation.

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Also, survivors who had undergone chest, abdominal, or pelvic radiation were half as likely to be obese as those who did not receive those treatments.

“The ability to identify patients at increased risk may guide selection of therapeutic protocols that will maximize treatment outcomes while simultaneously minimizing the risk of long-term complications among children diagnosed with cancer,” study co-leader Kirsten Ness, P.T., Ph.D., of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., said in a journal news release.


  1. Wilson, Carmen L., PhD, et al. “Genetic and clinical factors associated with obesity among adult survivors of childhood cancer: A report from the St. Jude Lifetime Cohort.” Cancer. DOI: 10.1002/cncr.29153. [epub ahead of print]. May 11, 2015.