As if they don't have enough worries on their plate, a new study has found that survivors of childhood cancer may be at greater risk than their peers for developing breast cancer.
The study, which was presented June 4 at an American Society of Clinical Oncology conference in Chicago, found that women who were treated with chest radiation for cancer when they were young girls now have a higher risk than previously thought for developing breast cancer.
Radiation is one of the go-to methods for treating cancer. It has been used to save countless children from lymphoma, leukemia, soft-tissue tumors and other cancer types. But it's also extremely damaging to the body's DNA, and that damage can lead to the development of breast cancer even decades after treatment.
Chaya Moskowitz, a biostatistician at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York who led the study, said at the Chicago conference, "We find that by age 50, approximately 30 percent of women treated with radiation as girls for Hodgkin lymphoma have developed breast cancer." That's considerably higher than the 4 percent risk associated with the general population.
One promising note is that children treated with radiation today get much lower doses that are localized to much smaller areas of the body than did the kids who were treated several decades ago. That won't help the childhood cancer survivors who are developing breast cancer today, but it may help prevent the disease from developing in future generations of survivors.