Womens Health

Radiation Therapy Causes Diabetes

A new study performed by researchers at Emory University shows that those adults who underwent radiation treatment as child cancer patients have a significant risk for developing diabetes. The results of the study were published in Archives of Internal Medicine.

There have been numerous studies that have shown that the various pediatric cancer treatments, such as radiation and chemotherapy, shorten the lives of the cancer survivors. The researchers comment, "As a result of their curative therapies, childhood cancer survivors face an increased risk of morbidity and mortality." Almost three-quarters of child cancer survivors will develop a chronic condition within 30 years from their cancer diagnosis, while not quite half will end up with a severe, life-threatening, or disabling health conditions.

Cardiovascular Disease

Research has already proven that cardiovascular disease is the major cause of death among childhood cancer survivors. Since cardiovascular mortality is often seen in those who suffer from diabetes, the Emory team decided to see if radiation treatment affected a survivor's risk for developing diabetes.

The team of scientists looked at the diabetes rate in 8,599 pediatric cancer survivors. The participants had all been diagnosed with their cancers before turning 21 with the cancers having been discovered during the years 1970-1986. Their rates for developing diabetes were compared to that of some of their siblings, who had not had childhood cancer. The cancer survivors and the 2,936 siblings (selected at random) were tested for diabetes in 2003.

Shocking Numbers

Researchers then adjusted their calculations according to other risk factors for diabetes, such as race, insurance, income, exercise, ethnicity, body mass index (BMI), and age. The scientists found that those who had undergone pediatric cancer treatment were 1.8 times more likely to have developed diabetes as adults than were their siblings. In those survivors treated with abdominal radiation, the rate for diabetes was 2.7 times as likely, while those who had undergone whole-body radiation had a whopping 7.2 times the risk for being found diabetic as adults.

The research team found that the risk increased according to the radiation dosage and according to the age at which the survivors had been diagnosed with cancer. Those survivors who had been diagnosed before turning five had a diabetes risk of 2.4 times that of those who had been diagnosed between the ages of fifteen and twenty.

An earlier study discovered that pediatric cancer survivors had a risk for heart disease 5-10 times more than that of their siblings who had never suffered from cancer. They were also found to be more at risk for kidney disease.

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