Teen and young adult cancer survivors are at increased risk for other cancers later in life, according to a study published online Oct. 6 in Cancer.
When researchers analyzed the U.S National Cancer Institute data for patients who survived cancers before age 40, they found that over a period of 30 years, 14% of the survivors were subsequently diagnosed with another, different type of cancer. In fact, on average, the second cancer occurred within 15 years.
These percentages also varied between different age groups. Patients treated between the ages of 15 and 39 were nearly 60% more likely to develop cancer again, whereas patients successfully treated after age 40 were 10% more likely to develop another cancer.
Of these second cancers, it was found that the most common types were breast, gastrointestinal and genital cancers as well as melanoma. Interestingly, those who received radiation therapy for their first cancer were also more likely to have a second cancer, compared to those who did not have radiation therapy. And out of the 7,384 patients who developed second cancers, 1,195 also developed a third cancer.
"Cancer patients used to be told that after they had reached five years of remission, they no longer had special health care needs," senior author Robert Goldsby, M.D., a professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco, Benioff Children's Hospital, said in a university news release. "But our study demonstrates that adolescent and younger adult survivors require lifelong follow-up with regular medical screening."
In conclusion, I would say that people should always be aware of the possibility of developing cancer and should take steps to ensure consistent screening. As the data suggests - and as hard as it may be to accept - we can never be fully reassured that remission is permanent.