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Late Effects of Treatment for Childhood Cancer (PDQ®): Treatment - Patient Information [NCI] - Endocrine System


Obesity and body fat

Obesity is a late effect that is more likely to occur after treatment for certain childhood cancers.

Treatment for these and other childhood cancers may cause obesity:

  • Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL).
  • Brain tumors, especially craniopharyngiomas.
  • Cancers treated with total-body irradiation (TBI) as part of a stem cell transplant.

Obesity may be measured by weight, body mass index, percent of body fat, or size of the abdomen (belly fat).

Radiation therapy to the brain increases the risk of obesity.

The risk of obesity increases after treatment with the following:

  • Radiation therapy to the brain.
  • Surgery that damages the hypothalamus or pituitary gland.

The following may also increase the risk of obesity:

  • Being diagnosed with cancer when aged 5 to 9 years.
  • Being female.
  • Not doing enough physical activity to stay at a healthy body weight.
  • Taking an antidepressant called paroxetine.

Childhood cancer survivors who get enough exercise and have a normal amount of anxiety have a lower risk of obesity.

Certain tests and procedures are used to detect (find) and diagnose obesity.

These and other tests and procedures may be used to detect or diagnose obesity:

  • Physical exam and history: An exam of the body to check general signs of health, including checking for signs of disease, such as lumps or anything else that seems unusual. A history of the patient's health habits and past illnesses and treatments will also be taken.
  • Blood chemistry studies: A procedure in which a blood sample is checked to measure the amounts of certain substances, such as glucose, released into the blood by organs and tissues in the body. An unusual (higher or lower than normal) amount of a substance can be a sign of disease in the organ or tissue that makes it.
  • Lipid profile studies: A procedure in which a blood sample is checked to measure the amounts of triglycerides, cholesterol, and low- and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol in the blood.

Talk to your child's doctor about whether your child needs to have tests and procedures to check for signs of obesity. If tests are needed, find out how often they should be done.


WebMD Public Information from the National Cancer Institute

Last Updated: February 25, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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