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Cancer researchers find that radiation treatment in children raises risk of brain tumors later

University researchers found that children who received radiation treatment for cancer face a greater risk for tumors of the brain and spinal column later in life.

The study, published in the November 1, 2006, issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, showed that radiation treatment for childhood cancer was linked to a higher risk for later developing both malignant and benign brain tumors.
The researchers found that the risk of a second tumor increased as the dose of radiation used to treat the original cancer increased, and that the children who were youngest when they underwent radiation had the highest risk of developing another central nervous system cancer.
“Secondary tumors of the central nervous system can have particularly devastating consequences and have been linked to earlier treatments for childhood leukemia and brain tumors,” says the study’s lead author, Joseph Neglia, M.D., pediatric oncologist and researcher with the Medical School and Cancer Center.

Neglia and colleagues reviewed information from the 14,361 five-year survivors of childhood cancer participating in the University’s Childhood Cancer Survivor Study.

Treatment with radiation was associated with a greater than sixfold increased risk of subsequent gliomas and a nearly tenfold increased risk of subsequent meningiomas.

Despite these risks, the researchers conclude that the use of radiation is justified in these cases “because 60 percent of deaths among survivors of childhood cancer who are five years or older at treatment result from recurrence or progression of their original disease.”

They urged long-term medical follow-up of all childhood cancer survivors, particularly those exposed to radiation.

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