Using the cumulative burden, the study analyzed the lifelong impact of 168 chronic health conditions on 5,522 St. Jude adult survivors of childhood cancer, by comparing the cumulative burden of chronic disease to healthy volunteers matched for age and sex.
“Researchers found that by age 50, the average pediatric cancer survivor had 17.1 chronic health conditions, including 4.7 that were considered severe or disabling, life-threatening or deadly, compared to the general population that averaged 9.2 chronic health conditions with 2.3 falling into the same categories.” 2
Dr. Nickhill Bhakta, an assistant member of the St. Jude Department of Global Pediatric Medicine, explained that there are two different types of chronic conditions: 3
- those that develop early and persist throughout life
- and others whose risk develops and increases over time.
For instance, he explained that radiation on a child with a developing brain can stunt brain development which leads to problems with higher executive functioning or developmental disabilities (why are they so proud of radiation?) and that a class of chemotherapy drugs known as anthracyclines kill cancer really well but can also cause serious damage to the heart muscle which leads to an increased risk of heart attack or heart failure.
Researchers hope that with this understanding will come ways to lessen the long-term impacts of the treatments used on their childhood cancers.