Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Cancer Health Center

Font Size

Childhood Cancer Survivors Face Higher Death Risk

Survivors of Childhood Cancer Face Higher Death Risk Decades After Treatment
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

July 13, 2010 -- Children who beat cancer face an increased risk of death from second primary cancers and cardiovascular diseases 25 years or more after their initial diagnosis and treatment, says a new study in The Journal of the American Medical Association.

With a team of colleagues, Raoul C. Reulen, PhD, of the University of Birmingham in England, studied long-term deaths among 17,981 people in Britain who had survived childhood cancer for five years or more after their initial diagnosis.

The people in the study were diagnosed with cancer before age 15 between 1940 and 1991 and were followed until the end of 2006.

Scientists say 3,049 deaths occurred during the study period and that survivors of childhood cancer had 11 times the number of deaths that would have been expected in the general population. The mortality rate was still three times higher than expected 45 years after diagnosis.

“Over recent decades, survival from childhood cancer has improved dramatically, yet mortality rates in childhood cancer survivors continue to be elevated for many years beyond five-year survival, compared with the general population,” the researchers write. “Although studies have shown that the risk of death from recurrence decreases with increasing time since five-year survival, uncertainty about the long-term risks of death from other causes remains.”

This type of long-term cause-specific mortality is important “because any excess mortality may be related to long-term complications of treatment,” the researchers write.

Childhood Cancer and Adult Death Risk

According to the study:

  • The absolute death risk for recurrence declined from diagnosis at age 5 to 14 to beyond 45 years from diagnosis.
  • Absolute death risk from second primary cancers and circulatory disease from cardiac and cerebrovascular deaths increased, however.

“Beyond 45 years from diagnosis, recurrence accounted for 7% of the excess number of deaths observed while second primary cancers and circulatory deaths together accounted for 77%,” the researchers write.

The excess deaths due to second primary cancer and circulatory disease likely are caused by late complications from initial treatments, the researchers say.

“Second primary cancers are a recognized late complication of childhood cancer, largely due to radiation during treatment, but specific” drugs that are toxic to cells also have been implicated in second primary cancer diagnoses, the researchers write.

Today on WebMD

Colorectal cancer cells
New! I AM Not Cancer Facebook Group
Lung cancer xray
See it in pictures, plus read the facts.
sauteed cherry tomatoes
Fight cancer one plate at a time.
Ovarian cancer illustration
Real Cancer Perspectives
Jennifer Goodman Linn self-portrait
what is your cancer risk
colorectal cancer treatment advances
breast cancer overview slideshow
prostate cancer overview
lung cancer overview slideshow
ovarian cancer overview slideshow
Actor Michael Douglas