(HealthDay News) — Adult survivors of childhood cancer have an elevated risk of late-onset memory impairment, according to a study published in JAMA Network Open.

Researchers assessed whether aging adult childhood cancer survivors report more new-onset neurocognitive impairments compared to their siblings.

The analysis included 2375 cancer survivors participating in the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study who were diagnosed with cancer from 1970 through 1986. They had new-onset neurocognitive impairment assessed between baseline (23.4 years after diagnosis) and follow-up (35.0 years after diagnosis). The cancer survivors were compared to 232 siblings.

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Compared with siblings, a higher proportion of cancer survivors with no impairment in memory at baseline had new-onset memory impairment at follow-up. New-onset memory impairment was reported in:

  • 7.8% of siblings
  • 14.0% of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) survivors treated with chemotherapy only
  • 25.8% ALL survivors treated with cranial radiation therapy (CRT)
  • 34.7% of central nervous system (CNS) tumor survivors
  • 16.6% of Hodgkin lymphoma survivors.

There was an association observed between new-onset memory impairment and CRT in CNS tumor survivors (relative risk [RR], 1.97; 95% CI, 1.33-2.90) and alkylator chemotherapy ≥8,000 mg/m² in ALL survivors treated without CRT (RR, 2.80; 95% CI, 1.28-6.12).

“These findings suggest that adult survivors of childhood cancer are at elevated risk for new-onset neurocognitive impairments as they age and that such new-onset impairment may be an indicator of future neurocognitive decline and possibly dementia,” the researchers wrote.

Abstract/Full Text