Health-related quality of life among young adult survivors of childhood cancer is similar to that of adults in the general population who are ten years older, according to a new study from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (HSPH) published Friday, in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

The main factor to determine the well-being sense among people is the presence or lack of chronic health conditions. Research demonstrates that childhood cancer survivors are more likely to develop heart disease, infertility, lung disease, cancers and other manifestations related to chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery.

The most common cancer among children between 0 to 19 years old is Leukemia. Credit: St. Baldricks

Researchers suggest that 18-to-29-year-old adults who had childhood cancer reported almost the same levels of health-related quality of life than adults in their 40s, who did not necessarily have cancer. The Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center also collaborated in the study.

Study details and other theories

The team analyzed data on health indicators from more than 7,000 18-to-49-years-old who participated in the national Childhood Cancer Survivor Study. Only 20 percent of them reported no chronic conditions, said the HSPH in a press release issued Friday.

Since the decade of the 70s, survival rates of childhood cancer have been increasing. Science has presented new treatments to reduce late effects while fighting the disease, that are less toxic. At the same time, selected types of cancer can now be treated with less invasive therapies

Health-related quality of life descends as people get older, said Lisa Diller, senior author of the study and chief medical officer at the Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s. However low results of quality of life among participants were linked to chronic disease developed after treatment, not to the childhood cancer itself.

“If we can prevent treatment-related conditions by changes in the therapy we use for cancer, then childhood cancer will become an acute, more rathe than a chronic, illness.” Said Lisa Diller, MD, in a press release.

Findings also suggest that having more chronic conditions leads to a lower score of health-related quality of life. Jennifer Yeh, Ph.D. and lead author of the study, said that understanding how cancer affects the well-being of survivors in the long term is fundamental to determine where should researchers focus, to enhance the health conditions of patients.

Which is the impact of childhood cancer in the United States?

By 2014, there were 14.5 million cancer survivors in the country, of which 388,000 had been diagnosed whey they were under 21 years old, said the National Cancer Institute. Less invasive treatments for pediatric cancers, allow that 80 percent of children diagnosed with the disease live for at least five years after they are diagnosed

The most common cancer among children between 0 to 19 years old is Leukemia, which is also the main cause of cancer death in the same segment, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“By enabling comparisons to the general population, our findings provide context to better understand how the cancer experience may influence the long-term,” said Yeh in a press release issued Friday.

Source: Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health