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Late Effects of Treatment for Childhood Cancer (PDQ®)–Health Professional Version

General Information About Late Effects of Treatment for Childhood Cancer

During the past five decades, dramatic progress has been made in the development of curative therapy for pediatric malignancies. Long-term survival into adulthood is the expectation for more than 80% of children with access to contemporary therapies for pediatric malignancies.[1] The therapy responsible for this survival can also produce adverse long-term health-related outcomes, referred to as late effects, which manifest months to years after completion of cancer treatment.

A variety of approaches have been used to advance knowledge about the very long-term morbidity associated with childhood cancer and its contribution to early mortality. These initiatives have utilized a spectrum of resources including investigation of data from the following:

  • Population-based registries.[2,3]
  • Self-reported outcomes (provided through large-scale cohort studies).[4]
  • Medical assessments.[5,6]

Studies reporting outcomes in survivors who have been well characterized regarding clinical status and treatment exposures, and comprehensively ascertained for specific effects through medical assessments, typically provide the highest quality data to establish the occurrence and risk profiles for late cancer treatment–related toxicity. Regardless of study methodology, it is important to consider selection and participation bias of the cohort studies in the context of the findings reported.

Prevalence of Late Effects in Childhood Cancer Survivors

Late effects are commonly experienced by adults who have survived childhood cancer; the prevalence of late effects increases as time from cancer diagnosis elapses. Multi-institutional and population-based studies support excess hospital-related morbidity among childhood and young adult cancer survivors compared with age- and sex-matched controls.[2,3,7-10]

Research has demonstrated that among adults treated for cancer during childhood, late effects contribute to a high burden of morbidity, including the following:[4-6,11-14]

  • 60% to more than 90% develop one or more chronic health conditions.
  • 20% to 80% experience severe or life-threatening complications during adulthood.

Using the cumulative burden metric—which incorporates multiple health conditions and recurrent events into a single metric that takes into account competing risks—by age 50 years, survivors in the St. Jude Lifetime Cohort experienced an average of 17.1 chronic health conditions, 4.7 of which were severe/disabling, life threatening, or fatal.[13] This is in contrast to the cumulative burden in matched community controls who experienced 9.2 chronic health conditions, 2.3 of which were severe/disabling, life threatening, or fatal (refer to Figure 1).[13]

EnlargeCharts showing distribution of cumulative burden by age among childhood cancer survivors of specific pediatric cancer subtypes and community controls participating in St. Jude Lifetime Cohort Study.
Figure 1. Figure shows distribution of cumulative burden by age among childhood cancer survivors of specific pediatric cancer subtypes and community controls participating in the St. Jude Lifetime Cohort Study. The cumulative burden at age 30 years and rate of cumulative burden growth is variable across cancer subtypes and organ systems. Reprinted from The Lancet, Volume 390, Issue 10112, Bhakta N, Liu Q, Ness KK, Baassiri M, Eissa H, Yeo F, Chemaitilly W, Ehrhardt MJ, Bass J, Bishop MW, Shelton K, Lu L, Huang S, Li Z, Caron E, Lanctot J, Howell C, Folse T, Joshi V, Green DM, Mulrooney DA, Armstrong GT, Krull KR, Brinkman TM, Khan RB, Srivastava DK, Hudson MM, Yasui Y, Robison LL, The cumulative burden of surviving childhood cancer: an initial report from the St Jude Lifetime Cohort Study (SJLIFE), Pages 2569–2582, Copyright (2017), with permission from Elsevier.

The variability in prevalence is related to differences in the following:

  • Age and follow-up time of the cohorts studied.
  • Methods and consistency of assessment (e.g., self-reported vs. risk-based medical evaluations).
  • Treatment intensity and treatment era.

Childhood Cancer Survivor Study (CCSS) investigators demonstrated that the elevated risk of morbidity and mortality among aging survivors in the cohort increases beyond the fourth decade of life. By age 50 years, the cumulative incidence of a self-reported severe, disabling, life-threatening, or fatal health condition was 53.6% among survivors, compared with 19.8% among a sibling control group. Among survivors who reached age 35 years without a previous severe, disabling, life-threatening, or fatal health condition, 25.9% experienced a new grade 3 to grade 5 health condition within 10 years, compared with 6.0% of healthy siblings (refer to Figure 2).[4]

The presence of serious, disabling, and life-threatening chronic health conditions adversely affects the health status of aging survivors, with the greatest impact on functional impairment and activity limitations. Predictably, chronic health conditions have been reported to contribute to a higher prevalence of emotional distress symptoms in adult survivors than in population controls.[15] Female survivors demonstrate a steeper trajectory of age-dependent decline in health status than do male survivors.[16] The even-higher prevalence of late effects among cohorts evaluated by clinical assessments is related to the subclinical and undiagnosed conditions detected by screening and surveillance measures.[6]

EnlargeCharts showing the cumulative incidence of chronic health conditions by age among survivors and siblings.
Figure 2. Cumulative incidence of chronic health conditions for (A) grades 3 to 5 chronic health conditions, (B) multiple grade 3 to 5 conditions in survivors, (C) multiple grade 3 to 5 conditions in siblings, (D) conditioned based on no previous grade 3 to 5 conditions among survivors by ages 25, 35, or 45, and (E) conditioned based on no previous grade 3 to 5 conditions among siblings by ages 25, 35, or 45. Gregory T. Armstrong, Toana Kawashima, Wendy Leisenring, Kayla Stratton, Marilyn Stovall, Melissa M. Hudson, Charles A. Sklar, Leslie L Robison, Kevin C. Oeffinger; Aging and Risk of Severe, Disabling, Life-Threatening, and Fatal Events in the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study; Journal of Clinical Oncology, volume 32, issue 12, pages 1218-1227. Reprinted with permission. © (2014) American Society of Clinical Oncology. All rights reserved.

CCSS investigators also evaluated the impact of race and ethnicity on late outcomes by comparing late mortality, subsequent neoplasms, and chronic health conditions in Hispanic (n = 750) and non-Hispanic black (n = 694) participants with those in non-Hispanic white participants (n = 12,397).[17] The following results were observed:

  • Cancer treatment did not account for disparities in mortality, chronic health conditions, or subsequent neoplasms observed among the groups.
  • Differences in socioeconomic status and cardiovascular risk factors affected risk. All-cause mortality was higher among non-Hispanic black participants than among other groups, but this difference disappeared after adjustment for socioeconomic status.
  • Risk of developing diabetes was elevated among racial/ethnic minority groups even after adjustment for socioeconomic status and obesity.
  • Non-Hispanic blacks had a higher likelihood of reporting cardiac conditions, but this risk diminished after adjusting for cardiovascular risk factors.
  • Nonmelanoma skin cancer was not reported by non-Hispanic blacks, a finding that has been replicated by other studies,[18] and Hispanic participants had a lower risk than did non-Hispanic white participants.

Recognition of late effects, concurrent with advances in cancer biology, radiological sciences, and supportive care, has resulted in a change in the prevalence and spectrum of treatment effects. In an effort to reduce and prevent late effects, contemporary therapy for most pediatric malignancies has evolved to a risk-adapted approach that is assigned on the basis of a variety of clinical, biological, and sometimes genetic factors. The CCSS reported that with decreased cumulative dose and frequency of therapeutic radiation use over treatment decades from 1970 to 1999, survivors have experienced a significant decrease in risk of subsequent neoplasms.[19] With the exception of survivors requiring intensive multimodality therapy for refractory/relapsed malignancies, life-threatening treatment effects are relatively uncommon after contemporary therapy in early follow-up (up to 10 years after diagnosis). However, survivors still frequently experience life-altering morbidity related to effects of cancer treatment on endocrine, reproductive, musculoskeletal, and neurologic function.

A CCSS investigation examined temporal patterns in the cumulative incidence of severe to fatal chronic health conditions among survivors treated from 1970 to 1999. The 20-year cumulative incidence of at least one grade 3 to 5 chronic condition decreased significantly, from 33.2% for survivors diagnosed between 1970 and 1979, to 29.3% for those diagnosed between 1980 and 1989, to 27.5% for those diagnosed between 1990 and 1999, compared with a 4.6% incidence in a sibling cohort. The overall decrease in incidence of chronic conditions across the three treatment decades was, in part, because of a substantial reduction of endocrinopathies, subsequent malignant neoplasms, musculoskeletal conditions, and gastrointestinal conditions, whereas the cumulative incidence of hearing loss increased during this time. Declines in morbidity were not uniform across the diagnosis groups or condition types because of differences in treatment and survival patterns over time (refer to Figure 3 for more information).[20] Despite declines in chronic health conditions over time, self-reported health status has not improved in more recent treatment eras; this finding may be because of the survival of children with higher-risk disease who would have previously died of cancer in earlier eras, or an enhanced awareness of and surveillance for late effects among more-recently treated survivors.[21]

EnlargeGraphs showing the cumulative incidence of grade 3–5 chronic health conditions in 5-year survivors of childhood cancer by diagnosis decade and siblings.
Figure 3. Cumulative incidence of grade 3–5 chronic health conditions in 5-year survivors of childhood cancer by diagnosis decade and siblings. (A) Cumulative incidence of a first grade 3–5 condition. (B) Cumulative incidence of two or more grade 3–5 conditions. The shaded area represents the 95% confidence interval (CI). The number of participants at risk (number censored) at each 5-year interval post-diagnosis is listed below the x-axis. The number censored does not include those who experienced a competing risk event (death from a cause other than a grade 5 chronic condition). Reprinted from The Lancet Oncology, Volume 19, Issue 12, Todd M Gibson, Sogol Mostoufi-Moab, Kayla L Stratton, Wendy M Leisenring, Dana Barnea, Eric J Chow, Sarah S Donaldson, Rebecca M Howell, Melissa M Hudson, Anita Mahajan, Paul C Nathan, Kirsten K Ness, Charles A Sklar, Emily S Tonorezos, Christopher B Weldon, Elizabeth M Wells, Yutaka Yasui, Gregory T Armstrong, Leslie L Robinson, Kevin C Oeffinger, Temporal patterns in the risk of chronic health conditions in survivors of childhood cancer diagnosed 1970–99: a report from the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study cohort. Pages 1590-1601, Copyright (2018), with permission from Elsevier.

Mortality

Late effects also contribute to an excess risk of premature death among long-term survivors of childhood cancer, as observed in the following studies:

  • Several studies of large cohorts of survivors have reported early mortality among individuals treated for childhood cancer compared with age- and sex-matched general population controls. Relapsed/refractory primary cancer remains the most frequent cause of death, followed by excess cause-specific mortality from subsequent primary cancers, and cardiac and pulmonary toxicity.[22-25]
  • An analysis of the CCSS and Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) program data that evaluated conditional survival demonstrated a subsequent 5-year survival rate of 92% or higher among most diagnoses at 5 years, 10 years, 15 years, and 20 years. Among those who had survived at least 5 years from diagnosis, the probability of all-cause mortality in the next 10 years was 8.8% in the CCSS and 10.6% in the SEER study, with neoplasms accounting for cause of death in approximately 75% of survivors.[26]

Despite high premature morbidity rates, overall mortality has decreased over time.[23,25,27,28]

  • This reduction is related to a decrease in deaths from the primary cancer without an associated increase in mortality from subsequent cancers or treatment-related toxicities; the former reflects improvements in therapeutic efficacy, and the latter reflects changes in therapy made subsequent to studying the causes of late effects.
  • The expectation that mortality rates in survivors will continue to exceed those in the general population is based on the long-term sequelae that are likely to increase with attained age.
  • If patients treated on therapeutic protocols are monitored for long periods into adulthood, it will be possible to evaluate the excess lifetime mortality in relation to specific therapeutic interventions.

Survivors of adolescent and young adult (AYA) cancers

Little information is available on late mortality among survivors of AYA cancer.[29]

  1. Using SEER data, conditional relative survival up to 25 years after diagnosis was studied in a cohort of AYA patients (N = 205,954) diagnosed with a first malignant cancer (thyroid, melanoma, testicular, breast, lymphoma, leukemia, and central nervous system [CNS] tumors).[29]
    • For all cancer types combined, among individuals who survived up to 5 years, the subsequent 5-year relative survival rate exceeded 95% by 7 years after diagnosis.
    • Most AYA cancer patients who survived at least 7 years after diagnosis experienced little difference in survival from that of the general population.
    • For specific cancer types, including CNS tumors, female breast cancer, Hodgkin lymphoma, and leukemia, evidence of excess mortality risk persisted, or re-emerged, more than 10 years after a cancer diagnosis.
    • Conditional relative survival was lowest for AYA patients with CNS tumors, although patients aged 15 to 29 years demonstrated a higher survival rate than did patients aged 30 to 39 years at the time of diagnosis of their CNS tumors.
  2. A separate analysis of 5-year survivors of AYA cancer, also using SEER data (N = 282,969), demonstrated the following:[30]
    • The 10-year all-cause mortality rate decreased from 8.3% for those diagnosed between 1975 and 1984 to 5.4% for those diagnosed between 2005 and 2011.
    • The decrease in mortality primarily resulted from fewer deaths from the initial cancer.
  3. CCSS investigators compared chronic health conditions and all-cause and cause-specific mortality among 5,804 survivors of early-AYA cancer survivors (cancer diagnosis, age 15–20 years; median age, 42 years) and 5,804 childhood cancer survivors (cancer diagnosis, age <15 years; median age, 34 years) matched on primary cancer diagnosis.[31]
    • The standardized mortality ratio (SMR) was 5.9 (95% confidence interval [CI], 5.5–6.2) for early-AYA survivors and 6.2 (95% CI, 5.8–6.6) for younger childhood cancer survivors, compared with the general population.
    • Early-AYA survivors had lower SMRs for death from health-related causes than did childhood cancer survivors (SMR, 4.8 [95% CI, 4.4–5.1] vs. 6.8 [95% CI, 6.2–7.4]), which was primarily evident more than 20 years after cancer diagnosis.
    • Early-AYA and childhood cancer survivors were at greater risk of developing severe and disabling, life-threatening, or fatal (grades 3–5) health conditions than were siblings of the same age (HR, 4.2 [95% CI, 3.7–4.8] for early-AYA and 5.6 [95% CI, 4.9–6.3] for childhood cancer survivors), although the risk was lower for early-AYA survivors than for childhood cancer survivors.
  4. In a retrospective, population-based cohort study from Kaiser Permanente, cause-specific mortality in 2-year survivors (N = 10,574) of AYA cancers (patients aged 13–39 years who were diagnosed between 1990 and 2012) was examined and compared with individuals without cancer.[32]
    • AYA cancer survivors were at a 10.4-fold increased risk of death compared with the matched noncancer cohort, and this risk remained elevated at more than 20 years after diagnosis (RR, 2.9).
    • Beginning at 15 years after diagnosis, the incidence of second cancer–related mortality exceeded the rate of recurrence-related mortality.
    • Mortality risk of suicide was doubled in AYA cancer survivors compared with the noncancer cohort.

Monitoring for Late Effects

Recognition of both acute and late modality–specific toxicity has motivated investigations evaluating the pathophysiology and prognostic factors for cancer treatment–related effects. Consequently, the results of late effects research have played an important role in the following areas:[33]

  • Changing pediatric cancer therapeutic approaches to reduce treatment-related mortality among survivors treated in more recent eras.
  • The development of risk counseling and health screening recommendations for long-term survivors by identifying the clinical and treatment characteristics of those at highest risk of treatment complications.

The common late effects of pediatric cancer encompass several broad domains, including the following:

  • Growth and development.
  • Organ function.
  • Reproductive capacity and health of offspring.
  • Secondary carcinogenesis.
  • Psychosocial sequelae related to the primary cancer, its treatment, or maladjustment associated with the cancer experience.

Late sequelae of therapy for childhood cancer can be anticipated based on therapeutic exposures, but the magnitude of risk and the manifestations in an individual patient are influenced by numerous factors. Multiple factors should be considered in the risk assessment for a given late effect (refer to Figure 4).[34]

Tumor-related factors

  • Tumor location.
  • Direct tissue effects.
  • Tumor-induced organ dysfunction.
  • Mechanical effects.

Treatment-related factors

  • Radiation therapy: Total dose, fraction size, organ or tissue volume, type of machine energy.
  • Chemotherapy: Agent type, dose-intensity, cumulative dose, schedule.
  • Surgery: Technique, site.
  • Hematopoietic cell transplantation.
  • Use of combined-modality therapy.
  • Blood product transfusion.
  • Management of chronic graft-versus-host disease.

Host-related factors

  • Sex.
  • Genetic predisposition.
  • Premorbid health state.
  • Developmental status.
  • Age at diagnosis.
  • Time from diagnosis/therapy.
  • Inherent tissue sensitivities and capacity for normal tissue repair.
  • Hormonal milieu.
  • Function of organs not affected by cancer treatment.
  • Socioeconomic status.
  • Health habits.

EnlargeChart showing factors influencing morbidity and mortality in the childhood cancer survivor.
Figure 4. Factors influencing morbidity and mortality of the childhood cancer survivor. Each arrow indicates a different factor affecting morbidity and mortality that exerts its effect along a continuum of care. Note that all effectors can begin exerting influence on morbidity during the period of cancer-directed therapy. Factors are separated into those that cannot be modified (red), those for which future interventions are plausible (yellow), and those for which there are known targets for interventions or areas in which therapy and surveillance have already been modified (blue). Reprinted from CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, Volume 68, Issue 2, Dixon SB, Bjornard KL, Alberts NM, et al., Factors influencing risk-based care of the childhood cancer survivor in the 21st century, Pages 133–152, Copyright © 2018 American Cancer Society, with permission from John Wiley and Sons.

Resources to Support Survivor Care

Risk-based screening

The need for long-term follow-up of childhood cancer survivors is supported by the American Society of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology, the International Society of Pediatric Oncology, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Children’s Oncology Group (COG), and the Institute of Medicine. A risk-based medical follow-up is recommended, which includes a systematic plan for lifelong screening, surveillance, and prevention that incorporates risk estimates on the basis of the following:[34]

  • Previous cancer.
  • Cancer therapy.
  • Genetic predisposition.
  • Lifestyle behaviors.
  • Comorbid conditions.
  • Sex.

Part of long-term follow-up is also focused on appropriate screening of educational and vocational progress. Specific treatments for childhood cancer, especially those that directly impact nervous system structures, may result in sensory, motor, and neurocognitive deficits that may have adverse consequences on functional status, educational attainment, and future vocational opportunities. In support of this, a CCSS investigation observed the following:[35]

  • Treatment with cranial radiation doses of 25 Gy or higher was associated with higher odds of unemployment (health related: odds ratio [OR], 3.47; 95% CI, 2.54–4.74; seeking work: OR, 1.77; 95% CI, 1.15–2.71).
  • Unemployed survivors reported higher levels of poor physical functioning than employed survivors, had lower education and income, and were more likely to be publicly insured than unemployed siblings.

These data emphasize the importance of facilitating survivor access to remedial services, which has been demonstrated to have a positive impact on education achievement,[36] which may in turn enhance vocational opportunities.

In addition to risk-based screening for medical late effects, the impact of health behaviors on cancer-related health risks is also emphasized. Health-promoting behaviors are stressed for survivors of childhood cancer. Educational efforts focused on healthy lifestyle behaviors include the following:

  • Abstinence from smoking, excess alcohol use, and illicit drug use to reduce the risk of organ toxicity and, potentially, subsequent neoplasms.
  • Healthy dietary practices and active lifestyle to reduce treatment-related metabolic and cardiovascular complications.

Proactively addressing unhealthy and risky behaviors is pertinent, as several research investigations confirm that long-term survivors use tobacco and alcohol and have inactive lifestyles despite their increased risk of cardiac, pulmonary, and metabolic late effects.[37-39]

Access to risk-based survivor care

Most childhood cancer survivors do not receive recommended risk-based care. The CCSS observed the following:

  • 92.8% of survivors reported receiving some form of medical care in the previous year.[40]
  • Nearly 39.4% reported receiving care that focused on their previous cancer (survivor-focused care).[40]
  • Surveillance for new cases of cancer was very low in survivors at the highest risk of colon, breast, or skin cancer, suggesting that survivors and their physicians need education about the risk of subsequent neoplasms and recommended surveillance.[41]
  • Sociodemographic factors have been linked to declining rates of follow-up care over time from diagnosis. CCSS participants who were male, had a household income of less than $20,000 per year, and had lower educational attainment (high school education or less) were more likely to report no care at their most recent follow-up survey. This trend is concerning because the prevalence of chronic health conditions increases with longer elapsed time from cancer diagnosis in adults treated for cancer during childhood.[42]
  • An ancillary study that included 975 adult survivors of childhood cancer identified factors associated with having the recommended risk-based, cancer-related medical visits. The relative risk of having a cancer-related visit was higher among survivors who:[43]
    • Assigned a greater importance to these visits.
    • Perceived a greater susceptibility to health problems.
    • Had experienced a cancer-related chronic health problem that was moderate to life-threatening.
    • Were seeing a primary care provider for a cancer-related problem.
    • Had received a cancer treatment summary.
    • Expressed greater confidence in physicians’ abilities to address questions and concerns.

Access to health insurance appears to play an important role in risk-based survivor care.[44,45] Lack of access to health insurance affects the following:

  • Cancer-related visits. In the CCSS, uninsured survivors were less likely than those privately insured to report a cancer-related visit (adjusted relative risk [RR], 0.83; 95% CI, 0.75–0.91) or a cancer center visit (adjusted RR, 0.83; 95% CI, 0.71–0.98). Uninsured survivors had lower levels of utilization in all measures of care than privately insured survivors. In contrast, publicly insured survivors were more likely to report a cancer-related visit (adjusted RR, 1.22; 95% CI, 1.11–1.35) or a cancer center visit (adjusted RR, 1.41; 95% CI, 1.18–1.70) than were privately insured survivors.[44]
  • Health care outcomes. In a study comparing health care outcomes for long-term survivors of AYA cancer with young adults who have no cancer history, the proportion of uninsured survivors did not differ between the two groups.[46]
  • Financial burden. Subgroups of AYA survivors may be at additional risk of facing health care barriers. Younger survivors (aged 20–29 years), females, nonwhites, and survivors reporting poorer health faced more cost barriers, which may inhibit the early detection of late effects.[46]

Overall, lack of health insurance remains a significant concern for survivors of childhood cancer because of health issues, unemployment, and other societal factors.[47,48] Legislation, including the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA),[49,50] has improved access and retention of health insurance among survivors, although the quality and limitations associated with these policies have not been well studied.

Transition to Survivor Care

Long-term follow-up programs

Transition of care from the pediatric to adult health care setting is necessary for most childhood cancer survivors in the United States.

When available, multidisciplinary long-term follow-up programs in the pediatric cancer center work collaboratively with community physicians to provide care for childhood cancer survivors. This type of shared care has been proposed as the optimal model to facilitate coordination between the cancer center oncology team and community physician groups providing survivor care.[51]

An essential service of long-term follow-up programs is the organization of an individualized survivorship care plan that includes the following:

  • Details about therapeutic interventions undertaken for childhood cancer and their potential health risks (e.g., chemotherapy type and cumulative dose, radiation treatment fields and dose, surgical procedures, blood product transfusions, and hematopoietic cell transplantation).
  • Personalized health screening recommendations.
  • Information about lifestyle factors that modify risks.

A CCSS investigation that evaluated perceptions of future health and cancer risk highlighted the importance of continuing education of survivors during long-term follow-up evaluations. A substantial subgroup of adult survivors reported a lack of concern about future health (24%) and subsequent cancer risks (35%), even after exposure to treatments associated with increased risks. These findings present concerns that survivors may be less likely to engage in beneficial screenings and risk-reduction activities.[52]

The CCSS evaluated the surveillance and screening practices of 11,337 childhood cancer survivors. They found that fewer than half of high-risk survivors at increased risk of developing subsequent malignant neoplasms or cardiac dysfunction received the recommended surveillance, which likely exposes them to preventable morbidity and mortality.[41]

  • 27% of survivors and 20% of primary care providers (PCP) had a survivorship care plan. Survivors treated after 1990 were more likely to have a survivorship care plan.
  • Survivorship care plan possession by high-risk survivors was associated with increased adherence to COG-recommended breast (22% vs. 8%), skin (35% vs. 23%), and cardiac (67% vs. 33%) surveillance. PCP survivorship care plan possession was associated with increased adherence to skin surveillance (40% vs. 23%).
  • Among high-risk survivors, adherence increased for colorectal (14% to 41%, P < .001) and cardiac (22% to 38%, P < .001) surveillance and decreased for breast surveillance (38% to 13%, P < .001) between 2007 and 2016.
  • For average-risk survivors, better adherence to American Cancer Society recommendations for breast (57%), cervical (84%), and colorectal (69%) screening was observed than with COG recommendations. PCP survivorship care plan possession was associated with increased adherence to breast and colorectal screening. Survivors were less adherent to breast screening than the general population and less adherent to cervical screening than siblings.

For survivors who have not been provided with this information, the COG offers a template that can be used by survivors to organize a personal treatment summary (refer to the COG Survivorship Guidelines, Appendix 1).

COG long-term follow-up guidelines for survivors of childhood, adolescent, and young adult cancers

To facilitate survivor and provider access to succinct information to guide risk-based care, COG investigators have organized a compendium of exposure- and risk-based health surveillance recommendations, with the goal of standardizing the care of childhood cancer survivors.[53]

The compendium of resources includes the following:

  • Long-Term Follow-Up Guidelines. COG Long-Term Follow-Up Guidelines for Survivors of Childhood, Adolescent, and Young Adult Cancers are appropriate for asymptomatic survivors presenting for routine exposure-based medical evaluation 2 or more years after completion of therapy.
  • Health Links. Patient education materials called Health Links provide detailed information on guideline-specific topics to enhance health maintenance and promotion among this population of cancer survivors.[54]
  • Comprehensive reviews. Multidisciplinary system-based (e.g., cardiovascular, neurocognitive, and reproductive) task forces are responsible for monitoring the literature, evaluating guideline content, and providing recommendations for guideline revisions as new information becomes available. Comprehensive reviews are published periodically to address specific late effects of childhood cancer.

Information concerning late effects is summarized in tables throughout this summary.

Several groups have undertaken research to evaluate the yield from risk-based screening as recommended by the COG and other pediatric oncology cooperative groups.[6,55,56] Pertinent considerations in interpreting the results of these studies include the following:

  • Variability in the cohort’s age at treatment.
  • Age at screening.
  • Time from cancer treatment.
  • Participation bias.

Collectively, these studies demonstrate that screening identifies a substantial proportion of individuals with previously unrecognized, treatment-related health complications of varying degrees of severity. Study results have also identified low-yield evaluations that have encouraged revisions of screening recommendations. Ongoing research is evaluating the cost effectiveness of screening in the context of consideration of benefits, risks, and harms.

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  20. Gibson TM, Mostoufi-Moab S, Stratton KL, et al.: Temporal patterns in the risk of chronic health conditions in survivors of childhood cancer diagnosed 1970-99: a report from the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study cohort. Lancet Oncol 19 (12): 1590-1601, 2018. [PUBMED Abstract]
  21. Ness KK, Hudson MM, Jones KE, et al.: Effect of Temporal Changes in Therapeutic Exposure on Self-reported Health Status in Childhood Cancer Survivors. Ann Intern Med 166 (2): 89-98, 2017. [PUBMED Abstract]
  22. Tukenova M, Guibout C, Hawkins M, et al.: Radiation therapy and late mortality from second sarcoma, carcinoma, and hematological malignancies after a solid cancer in childhood. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 80 (2): 339-46, 2011. [PUBMED Abstract]
  23. Armstrong GT, Chen Y, Yasui Y, et al.: Reduction in Late Mortality among 5-Year Survivors of Childhood Cancer. N Engl J Med 374 (9): 833-42, 2016. [PUBMED Abstract]
  24. Holmqvist AS, Chen Y, Wu J, et al.: Late mortality after autologous blood or marrow transplantation in childhood: a Blood or Marrow Transplant Survivor Study-2 report. Blood 131 (24): 2720-2729, 2018. [PUBMED Abstract]
  25. Bagnasco F, Caruso S, Andreano A, et al.: Late mortality and causes of death among 5-year survivors of childhood cancer diagnosed in the period 1960-1999 and registered in the Italian Off-Therapy Registry. Eur J Cancer 110: 86-97, 2019. [PUBMED Abstract]
  26. Mertens AC, Yong J, Dietz AC, et al.: Conditional survival in pediatric malignancies: analysis of data from the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study and the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program. Cancer 121 (7): 1108-17, 2015. [PUBMED Abstract]
  27. Fidler MM, Reulen RC, Winter DL, et al.: Long term cause specific mortality among 34 489 five year survivors of childhood cancer in Great Britain: population based cohort study. BMJ 354: i4351, 2016. [PUBMED Abstract]
  28. Holmqvist AS, Chen Y, Wu J, et al.: Assessment of Late Mortality Risk After Allogeneic Blood or Marrow Transplantation Performed in Childhood. JAMA Oncol 4 (12): e182453, 2018. [PUBMED Abstract]
  29. Anderson C, Smitherman AB, Nichols HB: Conditional relative survival among long-term survivors of adolescent and young adult cancers. Cancer 124 (14): 3037-3043, 2018. [PUBMED Abstract]
  30. Anderson C, Nichols HB: Trends in late mortality among adolescent and young adult (AYA) cancer survivors. J Natl Cancer Inst : , 2020. [PUBMED Abstract]
  31. Suh E, Stratton KL, Leisenring WM, et al.: Late mortality and chronic health conditions in long-term survivors of early-adolescent and young adult cancers: a retrospective cohort analysis from the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study. Lancet Oncol 21 (3): 421-435, 2020. [PUBMED Abstract]
  32. Armenian SH, Xu L, Cannavale KL, et al.: Cause-specific mortality in survivors of adolescent and young adult cancer. Cancer 126 (10): 2305-2316, 2020. [PUBMED Abstract]
  33. Kremer LC, Mulder RL, Oeffinger KC, et al.: A worldwide collaboration to harmonize guidelines for the long-term follow-up of childhood and young adult cancer survivors: a report from the International Late Effects of Childhood Cancer Guideline Harmonization Group. Pediatr Blood Cancer 60 (4): 543-9, 2013. [PUBMED Abstract]
  34. Dixon SB, Bjornard KL, Alberts NM, et al.: Factors influencing risk-based care of the childhood cancer survivor in the 21st century. CA Cancer J Clin 68 (2): 133-152, 2018. [PUBMED Abstract]
  35. Kirchhoff AC, Leisenring W, Krull KR, et al.: Unemployment among adult survivors of childhood cancer: a report from the childhood cancer survivor study. Med Care 48 (11): 1015-25, 2010. [PUBMED Abstract]
  36. Mitby PA, Robison LL, Whitton JA, et al.: Utilization of special education services and educational attainment among long-term survivors of childhood cancer: a report from the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study. Cancer 97 (4): 1115-26, 2003. [PUBMED Abstract]
  37. Lown EA, Hijiya N, Zhang N, et al.: Patterns and predictors of clustered risky health behaviors among adult survivors of childhood cancer: A report from the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study. Cancer 122 (17): 2747-56, 2016. [PUBMED Abstract]
  38. Gibson TM, Liu W, Armstrong GT, et al.: Longitudinal smoking patterns in survivors of childhood cancer: An update from the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study. Cancer 121 (22): 4035-43, 2015. [PUBMED Abstract]
  39. Devine KA, Mertens AC, Whitton JA, et al.: Factors associated with physical activity among adolescent and young adult survivors of early childhood cancer: A report from the childhood cancer survivor study (CCSS). Psychooncology 27 (2): 613-619, 2018. [PUBMED Abstract]
  40. Mueller EL, Park ER, Kirchhoff AC, et al.: Insurance, chronic health conditions, and utilization of primary and specialty outpatient services: a Childhood Cancer Survivor Study report. J Cancer Surviv 12 (5): 639-646, 2018. [PUBMED Abstract]
  41. Yan AP, Chen Y, Henderson TO, et al.: Adherence to Surveillance for Second Malignant Neoplasms and Cardiac Dysfunction in Childhood Cancer Survivors: A Childhood Cancer Survivor Study. J Clin Oncol 38 (15): 1711-1722, 2020. [PUBMED Abstract]
  42. Casillas J, Oeffinger KC, Hudson MM, et al.: Identifying Predictors of Longitudinal Decline in the Level of Medical Care Received by Adult Survivors of Childhood Cancer: A Report from the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study. Health Serv Res 50 (4): 1021-42, 2015. [PUBMED Abstract]
  43. Ford JS, Tonorezos ES, Mertens AC, et al.: Barriers and facilitators of risk-based health care for adult survivors of childhood cancer: A report from the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study. Cancer 126 (3): 619-627, 2020. [PUBMED Abstract]
  44. Casillas J, Castellino SM, Hudson MM, et al.: Impact of insurance type on survivor-focused and general preventive health care utilization in adult survivors of childhood cancer: the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study (CCSS). Cancer 117 (9): 1966-75, 2011. [PUBMED Abstract]
  45. Keegan TH, Tao L, DeRouen MC, et al.: Medical care in adolescents and young adult cancer survivors: what are the biggest access-related barriers? J Cancer Surviv 8 (2): 282-92, 2014. [PUBMED Abstract]
  46. Kirchhoff AC, Lyles CR, Fluchel M, et al.: Limitations in health care access and utilization among long-term survivors of adolescent and young adult cancer. Cancer 118 (23): 5964-72, 2012. [PUBMED Abstract]
  47. Kirchhoff AC, Kuhlthau K, Pajolek H, et al.: Employer-sponsored health insurance coverage limitations: results from the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study. Support Care Cancer 21 (2): 377-83, 2013. [PUBMED Abstract]
  48. Kuhlthau KA, Nipp RD, Shui A, et al.: Health insurance coverage, care accessibility and affordability for adult survivors of childhood cancer: a cross-sectional study of a nationally representative database. J Cancer Surviv 10 (6): 964-971, 2016. [PUBMED Abstract]
  49. Park ER, Kirchhoff AC, Zallen JP, et al.: Childhood Cancer Survivor Study participants' perceptions and knowledge of health insurance coverage: implications for the Affordable Care Act. J Cancer Surviv 6 (3): 251-9, 2012. [PUBMED Abstract]
  50. Warner EL, Park ER, Stroup A, et al.: Childhood cancer survivors' familiarity with and opinions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. J Oncol Pract 9 (5): 246-50, 2013. [PUBMED Abstract]
  51. Jacobs LA, Shulman LN: Follow-up care of cancer survivors: challenges and solutions. Lancet Oncol 18 (1): e19-e29, 2017. [PUBMED Abstract]
  52. Gibson TM, Li C, Armstrong GT, et al.: Perceptions of future health and cancer risk in adult survivors of childhood cancer: A report from the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study. Cancer 124 (16): 3436-3444, 2018. [PUBMED Abstract]
  53. Landier W, Bhatia S, Eshelman DA, et al.: Development of risk-based guidelines for pediatric cancer survivors: the Children's Oncology Group Long-Term Follow-Up Guidelines from the Children's Oncology Group Late Effects Committee and Nursing Discipline. J Clin Oncol 22 (24): 4979-90, 2004. [PUBMED Abstract]
  54. Eshelman D, Landier W, Sweeney T, et al.: Facilitating care for childhood cancer survivors: integrating children's oncology group long-term follow-up guidelines and health links in clinical practice. J Pediatr Oncol Nurs 21 (5): 271-80, 2004 Sep-Oct. [PUBMED Abstract]
  55. Landier W, Armenian SH, Lee J, et al.: Yield of screening for long-term complications using the children's oncology group long-term follow-up guidelines. J Clin Oncol 30 (35): 4401-8, 2012. [PUBMED Abstract]
  56. Wasilewski-Masker K, Mertens AC, Patterson B, et al.: Severity of health conditions identified in a pediatric cancer survivor program. Pediatr Blood Cancer 54 (7): 976-82, 2010. [PUBMED Abstract]

Subsequent Neoplasms

Subsequent neoplasms (SNs), which may be benign or malignant, are defined as histologically distinct neoplasms developing at least 2 months after completion of treatment for the primary malignancy. Childhood cancer survivors have an increased risk of developing SNs that is multifactorial in etiology and varies according to the following:

  • Host factors (e.g., genetics, immune function, hormone status).
  • Primary cancer therapy.
  • Environmental exposures.
  • Lifestyle factors.

SNs are the leading cause of nonrelapse late mortality (standardized mortality ratio, 15.2; 95% confidence interval [CI], 13.9–16.6).[1] The Childhood Cancer Survivor Study (CCSS) reported the following 30-year cumulative incidence rates:[2]

  • All SNs: 20.5% (95% CI, 19.1%–21.8%).
  • Nonmelanoma skin cancer (NMSC): 9.1% (95% CI, 8.1%–10.1%).
  • SNs with malignant histologies (excluding NMSC): 7.9% (95% CI, 7.2%–8.5%).
  • Meningioma: 3.1% (95% CI, 2.5%–3.8%).

This represents a sixfold increased risk of SNs among cancer survivors, compared with the general population.[2]

The excess risk of SNs has been described in several studies.[3,4]

Evidence (excess risk of SNs):

  1. In a CCSS cohort, at the age of 55 years, the cumulative incidence of any new SN (including malignant neoplasms, NMSCs, benign meningiomas, and other benign neoplasms) occurring after age 40 years was 34.6%. The incidence of malignant SNs was 16.3%. Female sex and therapeutic radiation exposure were associated with an increased risk of developing SNs in multivariate analysis.[3] Moreover, prolonged follow-up has established that multiple SNs are common among aging childhood cancer survivors.[5,6]
  2. The CCSS also reported that individuals treated in more recent treatment eras experienced decreased risk of SNs (including subsequent malignancies, NMSCs, and benign meningiomas) compared with those treated earlier, and this was associated with decreased exposure to therapeutic radiation; however, individuals treated in the 1990s remain at increased risk of SNs compared with the general population.[4]
  3. CCSS investigators evaluated morbidity and mortality associated with meningioma among 4,221 participants treated with cranial radiation therapy.[7]
    • The cumulative incidence of subsequent meningioma by age 40 years was 5.6% in this group of patients, and the incidence was without demonstrable plateau.
    • Risk factors for subsequent meningioma included female sex (hazard ratio [HR], 1.7; 95% CI, 1.2–2.3) and higher cranial radiation dose (HR, 2.6; 95% CI, 1.6–4.2 after 30 Gy or higher).
    • Among survivors reporting meningiomas, the risk of neurologic sequelae occurring 5 or more years after primary cancer diagnosis was increased for seizures (HR, 10.0; 95% CI, 7.0–15.3); auditory-vestibular-visual sensory deficits (HR, 2.3; 95% CI, 1.3–4.0); focal neurologic dysfunction (HR, 4.9; 95% CI, 3.2–7.5); and severe headaches (HR, 3.2; 95% CI, 1.9–5.4).
    • With a median follow-up of 72 months after meningioma diagnosis, 13% of the patients had died, with six deaths attributed to meningioma.
  4. CCSS investigators have also evaluated associations between chemotherapy and subsequent malignant neoplasms (SMNs) among nonirradiated, long-term survivors.[8]
    • Of 1,498 SMNs in 1,344 survivors, 229 occurred in 206 survivors who were treated with chemotherapy only.
    • The 30-year SMN cumulative incidence was 3.9% for the chemotherapy-only group, 9.0% for the chemotherapy-plus-radiation group, 10.8% for the radiation-only group, and 3.4% for the neither-treatment group.
    • Standardized incidence rates (SIRs) for SMNs were increased for any SMN (SIR, 2.8), subsequent leukemia/lymphoma (SIR, 1.9), breast cancer (SIR, 4.6), soft tissue sarcoma (SIR, 3.4), thyroid cancer (SIR, 3.8), and melanoma (SIR, 2.3).
    • The SMN rate was significantly associated with exposure to platinum chemotherapy doses higher than 750 mg/m2 (relative rate, 2.7) and alkylating agents (relative rate, 1.2 per 5,000 mg/m2).
    • The breast cancer rate showed a linear dose response (relative rate, 1.3 per 100 mg/m2) with anthracycline exposure.
  5. Dutch Childhood Oncology Group (DCOG)-LATER investigators evaluated the contribution of chemotherapy to solid cancer risk in a large cohort of childhood cancer survivors diagnosed between 1963 and 2001 (median follow-up, 20.7 years).[9]
    • The 25-year cumulative SN incidence was 3.9% and did not change across decades.
    • Survivors treated with doxorubicin exhibited a dose-dependent increased risk of all solid cancers and breast cancer. This relationship was stronger in survivors with Li-Fraumeni syndrome–associated childhood cancers (leukemia, central nervous system [CNS], and sarcomas other than Ewing) than in survivors of other cancers.
    • Among female survivors who did not receive chest radiation or total-body irradiation (TBI) and developed breast cancer (n = 31), HRs for doxorubicin dose tertiles were 1.3 (95% CI, 0.3–6.1), 5.6 (95% CI, 1.9–16.2), and 9.9 (95% CI, 4.2–23.8).
    • A dose-response relationship was confirmed with cyclophosphamide and subsequent sarcoma, particularly bone sarcoma. The HR for subsequent sarcoma was 3.1 (95% CI, 1.5–6.0) for survivors who received cyclophosphamide at a dose greater than 9,400 mg/m2 and 2.6 (95% CI, 1.3–5.2) for those who received ifosfamide.
  6. St. Jude Lifetime Cohort Study investigators assessed the contribution of pathogenic and likely pathogenic mutations in cancer predisposition genes to SN risk in childhood cancer survivors.[10]
    • Of 3,006 study participants evaluated by whole-genome sequencing (30-fold), 1,120 SNs were diagnosed among 439 survivors (14.6%), and 175 pathogenic or likely pathogenic mutations were identified in 5.8% of survivors; the prevalence of a pathogenic or likely pathogenic mutation among nonirradiated survivors with SNs was much higher at 18%.
    • Mutations were associated with significantly increased rates of breast cancer (relative risk [RR], 13.9) and sarcoma (RR, 10.6) among irradiated survivors and with developing any SN (RR, 4.7), breast cancer (RR, 7.7), nonmelanoma skin cancer (RR, 11), and two or more histologically distinct SNs (RR, 18.6).
    • Mutation carriers did not have an increased rate of meningioma or thyroid cancer.
  7. A study of 4,905 1-year survivors of allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT) who underwent transplant between 1969 and 2014 for malignant or nonmalignant diseases and were followed for a median 12.5 years, demonstrated a strong effect of TBI dose and dose fractionation on risk of SNs.[11]
    • The 20-year cumulative incidence of SN after HCT for individuals treated at younger than 20 years was 8.1%.
    • SN risk was highest in survivors exposed to high-dose, single-fraction TBI (6–12 Gy) or very high-dose fractionated (14.4–17.5 Gy) TBI.
    • With low-dose TBI (2–4.5 Gy), the SN risk was comparable to the risk with chemotherapy alone, although still twofold higher than in the general population.
    • Among individuals treated at younger than 20 years, the number of SNs was 12.5-fold higher than expected in the general population, and the excess absolute risk was 10.6 per 1,000 person-years. Survivors treated with HCT in this young age group were more likely to develop SNs than were survivors who were treated after age 50 years (HR, 2.3).

The incidence and type of SNs depend on the following:

  • Primary cancer diagnosis.
  • Type of therapy received.
  • Presence of genetic conditions.

Unique associations with specific therapeutic exposures have resulted in the classification of SNs into the following two distinct groups:

  • Therapy-related myelodysplastic syndrome (t-MDS) and therapy-related acute myeloid leukemia (t-AML).
  • Therapy-related solid SNs.

Therapy-Related Myelodysplastic Syndrome and Therapy-Related Leukemia

Therapy-related myelodysplastic syndrome (t-MDS) and therapy-related acute myeloid leukemia (t-AML) has been reported after treatment of Hodgkin lymphoma, acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), and sarcomas, with the cumulative incidence approaching 2% at 15 years after therapy.[12-14]

Characteristics of t-MDS and t-AML include the following:[12,15]

  • A short latency (<10 years from primary cancer diagnosis). The risk of t-MDS or t-AML plateaus after 10 to 15 years. Although the risk of subsequent leukemia remains significantly elevated beyond 15 years from primary diagnosis (standardized incidence ratio [SIR], 3.5; 95% CI, 1.9–6.0), these events are relatively rare, with an absolute excess risk of 0.02 cases per 1,000 person-years.[15]
  • An association with alkylating agents and/or topoisomerase II inhibitors.

t-MDS and t-AML are clonal disorders characterized by distinct chromosomal changes. The following two types of t-MDS and t-AML are recognized by the World Health Organization classification:[16]

  • Alkylating agent–related type: Alkylating agents associated with t-MDS and t-AML include cyclophosphamide, ifosfamide, mechlorethamine, melphalan, busulfan, nitrosoureas, chlorambucil, and dacarbazine.[17]

    The risk of alkylating agent–related t-MDS or t-AML is dose dependent, with a latency of 3 to 5 years after exposure; it is associated with abnormalities involving chromosomes 5 (-5/del(5q)) and 7 (-7/del(7q)).[17]

  • Topoisomerase II inhibitor–related type: Topoisomerase II inhibitor agents include etoposide, teniposide, and anthracycline-related drugs.

    Most of the translocations observed in patients exposed to topoisomerase II inhibitors disrupt a breakpoint cluster region between exons 5 and 11 of the band 11q23 and fuse KMT2A with a partner gene.[17] Topoisomerase II inhibitor–related t-AML presents as overt leukemia after a latency of 6 months to 3 years and is associated with balanced translocations involving chromosome bands 11q23 or 21q22.[18]

(Refer to the Therapy-Related AML and Therapy-Related Myelodysplastic Syndromes section of the PDQ summary on Childhood Acute Myeloid Leukemia/Other Myeloid Malignancies Treatment for more information.)

Therapy-Related Solid Neoplasms

Therapy-related solid SNs represent 80% of all SNs and demonstrate a strong relationship with radiation exposure and are characterized by a latency that exceeds 10 years. The risk of solid SNs continues to increase with longer follow-up. The risk of solid SNs is highest when the following occur:[4,9]

  • Younger age at time of radiation exposure.
  • High total dose of radiation.
  • Longer period of follow-up after radiation exposure.

The histological subtypes of solid SNs encompass a neoplastic spectrum ranging from benign and low-grade malignant lesions (e.g., NMSC, meningiomas) to high-grade malignancies (e.g., breast cancers, glioblastomas) (refer to Figure 5).[4,9,19,20]

EnlargeGraph showing fitted radiation dose (Gy) response by type of second cancer: sarcoma, skin cancer (BCC), meningioma, salivary gland cancer, glioma, breast cancer, and thyroid cancer.
Figure 5. Fitted radiation dose-response by type of second cancer, based on previously published studies of second sarcoma, skin, meningioma, salivary gland, glioma, breast, and thyroid gland. The order of second cancers from top to bottom in the graph is the same as in the key to the right of the panel. Reprinted from International Journal of Radiation Oncology*Biology*Physics, Volume 94, Issue 4, Inskip PD, Sigurdson AJ, Veiga L, et al., Radiation-Related New Primary Solid Cancers in the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study: Comparative Radiation Dose Response and Modification of Treatment Effects, Pages 800–807, Copyright © 2016, with permission from Elsevier.

Solid SNs in childhood cancer survivors most commonly involve the following:[4,9,19,21-24]

With more prolonged follow-up of adult survivors of childhood cancer cohorts, epithelial neoplasms have been observed in the following:[9,25]

Benign and low-grade SNs, including NMSCs and meningiomas, have also been observed with increasing prevalence in survivors who were treated with radiation therapy for childhood cancer.[4,26,27]

Recipients of HCT are treated with high-dose chemotherapy and, often, TBI, which makes their risk of SNs unique from the general oncology population.

  • In recipients of an HCT conditioned with high-dose busulfan and cyclophosphamide (Bu-Cy), the cumulative incidence of new solid cancers appears to be similar regardless of exposure to radiation.[28]
  • In a registry-based, retrospective, cohort study, Bu-Cy conditioning without TBI was associated with higher risks of solid SNs than in the general population.[28]
  • Chronic graft-versus-host disease increased the risk of SNs, especially those involving the oral cavity.[28]

Some well-established solid SNs are described in the following sections.

Breast cancer

Female survivors of childhood, adolescent, and young adult cancer treated with radiation therapy to fields including the chest are at increased risk of developing breast cancer.

  • The cumulative breast cancer incidence ranges from 13% to 20% by age 40 to 45 years among childhood cancer survivors and is as high as 35% by age 50 years in Hodgkin lymphoma survivors, comparable to that observed among BRCA gene mutation carriers.[29,30]
  • Radiation dose and volume of breast exposed are important factors affecting risk, and specific chemotherapeutic agents, particularly alkylating agents and anthracyclines, may affect risk as well.[29,30]

Evidence (excess risk of breast cancer):

  1. Breast cancer is the most common therapy-related solid SN after a previous diagnosis of Hodgkin lymphoma (SIR of subsequent breast cancer, 25–55).[12,31] The following has been observed in female survivors of childhood Hodgkin lymphoma:
    • Excess risk of breast cancer has been reported in female Hodgkin lymphoma survivors treated with high-dose, extended-volume radiation at age 30 years or younger.[32]
    • Data indicate that females treated with low-dose, involved-field radiation also exhibit excess breast cancer risk.[33]
    • Patients with Hodgkin lymphoma who received limited volume supradiaphragmatic radiation therapy (excluding the axillae) had a significantly lower risk of subsequent breast cancers than did patients who received full mantle-field radiation therapy.[34]
    • For female Hodgkin lymphoma patients treated with radiation therapy to the chest before age 16 years, the cumulative incidence of breast cancer approaches 20% by age 45 years.[12]
    • The latency period after chest irradiation ranges from 8 to 10 years, and the risk of subsequent breast cancer increases in a linear fashion with radiation dose (P for trend < .001).[35]
    • Treatment of childhood Hodgkin lymphoma with higher cumulative doses of alkylating agents and ovarian radiation of 5 Gy or higher (exposures predisposing to premature menopause) have been correlated with reductions in breast cancer risk, underscoring the potential contribution of hormonal stimulation on breast carcinogenesis.[34,36,37]
  2. The risk of breast cancer was also increased in the following studies that used lower radiation doses to treat cancer metastatic to the chest/lung (e.g., Wilms tumor, sarcoma) and exposed the breast tissue:
    1. In 116 children in the CCSS cohort treated with 2 Gy to 20 Gy to the lungs (median, 14 Gy), the SIR for breast cancer was 43.6 (95% CI, 27.1–70.1).[38]
    2. A report of 2,492 female participants in the National Wilms Tumor Studies 1 through 4 (1969–1995) addressed the excess risk of breast cancer.[39]
      • Sixteen of 369 women who received chest irradiation for metastatic Wilms tumor developed invasive breast cancer (cumulative risk at age 40 years, 14.8% [95% CI, 8.7–24.5]). The SIR of 27.6 (95% CI, 16.1–44.2) was based on 5,010 person-years of follow-up.
      • Of the 369 patients, radiation doses to the chest were less than 12 Gy in 4%, 12 Gy in 64%, 13 Gy to 15 Gy in 19%, and more than 15 Gy in 13% of patients.
      • For all patients who developed breast cancer (with or without chest irradiation), the median age at first breast cancer diagnosis was 34.3 years (range, 15.5–48.4) and the median time from Wilms tumor diagnosis was 27.1 years (range, 7.9–35.7).
  3. The risk of developing breast cancer after radiation therapy and chemotherapy with anthracyclines was evaluated in the CCSS. In a nested-case control study of 271 childhood cancer survivors (diagnosed between 1970–1986) who were subsequently diagnosed with breast cancer, the combination of anthracyclines and radiation therapy to the breast was associated with increased risks of breast cancer consistent with an additive interaction.[30]
    • For the study group, the median age of first cancer diagnosis was 15 years and the median age at breast cancer diagnosis was 39 years.
    • The odds ratio (OR) for breast cancer increased with increasing radiation dose to the breast (OR per 10 Gy, 3.9; 95% CI, 2.5–6.5) and was similar for estrogen receptor positive and estrogen receptor negative cancers.
    • The OR per 10 Gy to the breast was higher for women who received ovarian doses less than 1 Gy (OR, 6.8; 95% CI, 3.9–12.5) than for women who received ovarian doses greater than or equal to 15 Gy (OR, 1.4; 95% CI, 1.0–6.4).
    • The odds ratio for breast cancer increased with cumulative anthracycline dose (OR per 100 mg/m2, 1.23; 95% CI, 1.09–1.39; P < .01 for trend).
    • There was an additive interaction between radiation therapy and anthracycline treatment. The OR was 19.1 (95% CI, 7.6–48.0) for the combined association of anthracycline therapy and breast radiation dose of 10 Gy or more (compared with 0 to less than 1 Gy) versus 9.6 (95% CI, 4.4–20.7) without anthracycline therapy.
  4. Childhood cancer survivors not exposed to chest radiation also have an increased risk of breast cancer at a young age.
    1. A CCSS investigation of 3,768 female participants who did not receive chest radiation examined breast cancer risk.[40]
      • A fourfold excess risk (SIR, 4.0; 95% CI, 3.0–5.3) of breast cancer was observed compared with rates in the general population.
      • Breast cancer risk was highest among sarcoma (SIR, 5.3; 95% CI, 3.6–7.8) and leukemia (SIR, 4.1; 95% CI, 2.4–6.9) survivors, for whom the cumulative incidence of breast cancer was estimated to be 5.8% and 6.3%, respectively, by age 45 years.
      • Treatment with alkylating agents and anthracyclines increased the risk of breast cancer in a dose-dependent manner.
    2. CCSS investigators also examined SN risk among 7,448 participants who were treated with chemotherapy only.[8]
      • Breast cancer incidence was 4.6-fold greater than what would be expected in the general population (SIR, 4.6; 95% CI, 3.5–6.0).
      • A linear dose response was demonstrated between anthracyclines and breast cancer rate (RR, 1.3/100 mg/m2; 95% CI, 1.2–1.6).
  5. DCOG-LATER investigators evaluated the contribution of chemotherapy to solid cancer risk in a large cohort of childhood cancer survivors diagnosed between 1963 and 2001.[9]
    • Survivors treated with doxorubicin exhibited a dose-dependent increased risk of breast cancer (HR, 3.1; 95% CI, 1.4–6.5 among survivors treated with anthracycline doses of 250 mg/m2 or higher).
    • The doxorubicin–breast cancer dose response was stronger for survivors of Li-Fraumeni–associated cancers (leukemia, CNS, and sarcomas other than Ewing) than for survivors of other cancers.
  6. The St. Jude Lifetime Cohort Study assessed 1,467 women cancer survivors for the risk of developing subsequent breast cancer and evaluated whether surveillance imaging affects breast cancer outcomes.[21]
    • In women who did not receive chest radiation and did not receive anthracyclines, the cumulative incidence of breast cancer was 2% at age 35 years and 15% at age 50 years. For women who were treated with 250 mg/m2 or higher of anthracyclines, the rates were 7% at age 35 years and 46% at age 50 years.
    • Anthracycline doses of 250 mg/m2 or higher remained significantly associated with increased risk of breast cancer in models, excluding survivors with cancer predisposition gene mutations, chest radiation of 10 Gy or higher, or both.
    • Breast cancers detected by imaging and/or prophylactic mastectomy were more likely to be in situ carcinomas, be smaller masses, have no lymph node involvement, and be treated without chemotherapy, compared with breast cancers detected by physical findings.
    • Dual imaging with mammography and breast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in this cohort was a sensitive and specific approach to identify breast cancers that require less aggressive therapy than breast cancers detected by physical findings.
Subsequent versus de novo breast cancer

Several studies have investigated the clinical characteristics of subsequent breast cancers arising in women treated with radiation therapy for childhood cancer.[41-45]

  • In one population-based study, radiation-induced breast cancer was noted to have more adverse clinicopathological features, as evidenced by a twofold increased risk of estrogen receptor–negative, progesterone receptor–negative breast cancer observed among 15-year Hodgkin lymphoma survivors, compared with women who had sporadic breast cancer.[41]
  • Other studies have observed a higher proportion of more histologically aggressive subtypes (e.g., triple-negative breast cancer) than age-matched sporadic invasive cancers.[42,43]
  • These findings are in contrast to other smaller, hospital-based, case-control studies of breast cancer among Hodgkin lymphoma survivors that have not identified a significant variation in hormone receptor status when compared with primary breast cancer controls. Previous studies have also not demonstrated a significant difference in overall risk of high-grade versus low-grade tumors.[44,45]
Mortality after subsequent breast cancer

In a study of female participants in the CCSS who were subsequently diagnosed with breast cancer (n = 274) and matched to a control group of women (n = 1,095) with de novo breast cancer, survivors of childhood cancer were found to have elevated mortality rates (HR, 2.2; 95% CI, 1.7–3.0) even after adjusting for breast cancer treatment.[46]

  • Survivors were five times more likely to die as a result of other health-related causes, including other subsequent malignant neoplasms and cardiovascular or pulmonary disease (HR, 5.5; 95% CI, 3.4–9.0).
  • The cumulative incidence of a second asynchronous breast cancer was elevated significantly compared with controls (at 5 years, 8.0% among childhood cancer survivors vs. 2.7% among controls; P < .001).

Although currently available evidence is insufficient to demonstrate a survival benefit from the initiation of breast cancer surveillance in women treated with radiation therapy to the chest for childhood cancer, interventions to promote detection of small and early-stage tumors may improve prognosis, particularly for those who may have more limited treatment options because of previous exposure to radiation or anthracyclines.

In support of this, SJLIFE investigators observed that breast cancers detected by imaging and/or prophylactic mastectomy were more likely to be in situ carcinomas, be smaller masses, have no lymph node involvement, and be treated without chemotherapy, compared with breast cancers detected by physical findings.[21]

Thyroid cancer

Thyroid cancer is observed after the following:[8,20,47,48]

  • Neck radiation therapy for Hodgkin lymphoma, ALL, and brain tumors.
  • Iodine I 131-metaiodobenzylguanidine (131I-MIBG) treatment for neuroblastoma.
  • TBI for hematopoietic stem cell transplantation.
  • Chemotherapy only, without therapeutic radiation.

The 25-year cumulative incidence of thyroid cancer among survivors of childhood cancer is 0.5.[9] The risk of thyroid cancer among childhood cancer survivors has been reported to be over tenfold that of the general population (SIR, 10.5; 95% CI, 9.1–12).[4] Significant modifiers of the radiation-related risk of thyroid cancer include the following:[24,49]

  • Female sex.
  • Younger age at exposure.
  • Longer time since exposure.
  • Radiation dose. A linear dose-response relationship between radiation exposure and thyroid cancer is observed up to 10 Gy, with a leveling off between 10 Gy and 30 Gy, and a decline in the OR at higher doses, especially in children younger than 10 years at treatment, suggesting a cell killing effect of the target cells at higher doses.[24,50]

(Refer to the Thyroid nodules section of this summary for information on detecting thyroid nodules and thyroid cancer.)

CNS tumors

Subsequent CNS tumors represent a spectrum of histological subtypes from high-grade glioma to benign meningioma. The CCSS has reported briefer latency for gliomas than for meningiomas.[51] Variable opinions and practices related to neuroimaging versus symptom surveillance in long-term survivors treated with cranial irradiation challenge accurate assessment of the prevalence of low-grade and benign lesions, which are likely underascertained.

Brain tumors develop after cranial irradiation for histologically distinct brain tumors or for management of disease among ALL or non-Hodgkin lymphoma patients.[13] SIRs reported for subsequent CNS neoplasms after treatment for childhood cancer range from 8.1 to 52.3 across studies.[20]

The risk of subsequent brain tumors demonstrates a linear relationship with radiation dose.[22,51]

  • The risk of meningioma after radiation increases with radiation dose, and in some studies, is further potentiated with increased exposure to intrathecal methotrexate;[22] however, this finding has not been consistently replicated.[27]
  • Cavernomas have also been reported with considerable frequency after CNS irradiation but have been speculated to result from angiogenic processes as opposed to true tumorigenesis.[52-54]

Neurologic sequelae associated with meningiomas can include seizures, auditory-vestibular-visual deficits, focal neurologic dysfunction, and severe headaches.[7] Despite the well-established increased risk of subsequent CNS neoplasms among childhood cancer survivors treated with cranial irradiation and the growing recognition of associated morbidity, the current literature is insufficient to evaluate the potential harms and benefits of routine screening for these lesions.[55]

Bone and soft tissue tumors

Survivors of hereditary retinoblastoma, Ewing sarcoma, and other malignant bone tumors are at a particularly increased risk of developing subsequent bone and soft tissue tumors.[56-59]

  • Radiation therapy is associated with a linear dose-response relationship.[60]
  • After adjustment for radiation therapy, treatment with alkylating agents [9] and anthracyclines [61] have both been linked to sarcoma, with the risk increasing with cumulative drug exposure.[61]
  • Soft tissue sarcomas can be of various histologic subtypes, including nonrhabdomyosarcoma soft tissue sarcomas, rhabdomyosarcoma, malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumors, Ewing/primitive neuroectodermal tumors, and other rare tumor types.

Evidence (excess risk of bone and soft tissue tumors):

  1. A population-based study of 69,460 5-year survivors of cancer diagnosed before age 20 years observed the following:[57,58]
    • The risk of subsequent primary bone cancer was 22-fold greater than that of the general population, with an estimated 45-year cumulative incidence of 0.6%, compared with an expected rate of 0.03% in the general population.[57]
    • The observed excess numbers of subsequent primary bone cancer declined with both age and years from diagnosis.[57]
    • The risk of subsequent soft tissue sarcoma was almost 16-fold higher than the general population, with an estimated 45-year cumulative incidence of 1.4%, compared with an expected rate of 0.1%.[58]
    • The median time from diagnosis to occurrence of a soft tissue sarcoma was 19 years.[58]
    • The most commonly observed soft tissue sarcomas were leiomyosarcoma, fibromatous neoplasms, and malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumors.[58]
    • The SIR for subsequent fibromatous primary sarcomas decreased with increasing years from diagnosis and attained age, whereas the SIR for leiomyosarcoma and malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumors remained consistently high across all years from diagnosis and at all attained ages.[58]
    • The absolute excess risks of all sarcoma subtypes were generally low, except for leiomyosarcoma that followed a retinoblastoma diagnosis (absolute excess risks, 52.7 per 10,000 person-years among survivors 45 years or more from diagnosis).[58]
    • The risk of developing a leiomyosarcoma was 30-fold higher among survivors of childhood cancer, compared with an excess risk of 0.7 for the general population.[58]
      • Retinoblastoma survivors were at the highest risk (SIR, 342.9), followed by Wilms tumor survivors (SIR, 74.2).
      • 90% of leiomyosarcomas observed after a Wilms tumor diagnosis developed within the irradiated tissue.
  2. In a CCSS cohort, an increased risk of subsequent bone or soft tissue sarcoma was associated with radiation therapy, a primary diagnosis of sarcoma, a history of other SNs, and treatment with higher doses of anthracyclines or alkylating agents.[23]
    • The 30-year cumulative incidence of subsequent sarcoma in CCSS participants was 1.08% for survivors who received radiation therapy and 0.5% for survivors who did not receive radiation therapy.
  3. Dose-risk modeling was used to study the risk of bone sarcoma in a retrospective cohort of 4,171 survivors of a childhood solid cancer treated between 1942 and 1986 (median follow-up, 26 years).[60]
    • Results demonstrated that the risk of bone sarcoma increased slightly up to a cumulative organ-absorbed radiation dose of 15 Gy (HR, 8.2; 95% CI, 1.6–42.9) and then rapidly increased for higher radiation doses (HR for 30 Gy or more, 117.9; 95% CI, 36.5–380.6), compared with patients not treated with radiation therapy.
    • The excess RR per Gy in this model was 1.77 (95% CI, 0.62–5.94).
  4. In survivors of bilateral retinoblastoma, the most common SNs seen are sarcomas, specifically osteosarcoma.[62-64] The contribution of chemotherapy to solid malignancy carcinogenesis was highlighted in a long-term follow-up study of 906 5-year hereditary retinoblastoma survivors who were diagnosed between 1914 and 1996 and observed through 2009.[56]
    • Treatment with alkylating agents significantly increased risk of subsequent bone tumors (HR, 1.60; 95% CI, 1.03–2.49) and leiomyosarcoma (HR, 2.67; 95% CI, 1.22–5.85) among members of the cohort.
    • Leiomyosarcoma occurrence was more common after treatment with alkylating agent chemotherapy and radiation therapy compared with radiation therapy alone (5.8% vs. 1.6% at age 40 years; P = .01).
  5. The CCSS reported the following on 105 cases and 422 matched controls in a nested case-control study of 14,372 childhood cancer survivors:[61]
    • Soft tissue sarcomas occurred at a median of 11.8 years (range, 5.3–31.3 years) from original diagnoses.
    • Any exposure to radiation was associated with increased risk of soft tissue sarcoma (OR, 4.1; 95% CI, 1.8–9.5), which demonstrated a linear dose-response relationship.
    • Anthracycline exposure was associated with soft tissue sarcoma risk (OR, 3.5; 95% CI, 1.6–7.7), independent of radiation dose.
  6. In a cohort of 952 irradiated survivors of hereditary retinoblastoma diagnosed between 1914 and 2006, CCSS investigators observed that elevated bone and soft tissue sarcoma risks differed by age, location, and sex.[64]
    • Head and neck bone and soft tissue sarcomas were diagnosed beginning in early childhood and continued well into adulthood (60-year cumulative incidence of 6.8% and 9.3%, respectively).
    • Body and extremity bone sarcoma incidence flattened after adolescence (60-year cumulative incidence, 3.5%).
    • Body and extremity soft tissue sarcoma incidence was rare until age 30 years, when incidence rose steeply (60-year cumulative incidence, 6.6%) particularly for females (60-year cumulative incidence, 9.4%).
  7. In a retrospective study of 160 irradiated hereditary retinoblastoma patients, no correlation was identified between age (before or after 12 months) at which external-beam radiation therapy was given and development of subsequent malignancy.[59]
    • Patients with and without subsequent malignancies did not differ by RB1 mutation type. Also, there was no association with mutation type and location of subsequent malignant neoplasm, or subsequent malignant neoplasm type and age at diagnosis.
    • The study did show that patients who have a low penetrance mutation and receive external-beam radiation therapy remain at risk of subsequent malignant neoplasm and should be cautiously monitored.

Skin cancer

Nonmelanoma skin cancers (NMSCs) represent one of the most common SNs among childhood cancer survivors and exhibit a strong association with radiation therapy.[4] Adherence to sun protection behaviors can reduce exposure to ultraviolet radiation that may exacerbate risk.

Evidence (excess risk of NMSCs):

  1. Compared with participants who did not receive radiation therapy, CCSS participants treated with radiation therapy had a 6.3-fold increased risk of NMSCs (95% CI, 3.5–11.3).[65]
    • 90% of tumors occurred within the radiation field.
    • A CCSS case-control study of the same cohort reported on subsequent basal cell carcinomas (BCCs). Children who received 35 Gy or more to the skin site had an almost 40-fold excess risk of developing BCCs (OR, 39.8; 95% CI, 8.6–185), compared with those who did not receive radiation therapy; results were consistent with a linear dose-response relationship, with an excess OR per Gy of 1.09 (95% CI, 0.49–2.64).
  2. In 5,843 childhood cancer survivors in the DCOG-LATER cohort, investigators found that childhood cancer survivors had a 30-fold increased risk of developing BCCs.[26]
    • After a first BCC diagnosis, 46.7% of patients developed additional BCCs.
    • BCC risk was associated with any radiation therapy to the relevant radiation field (site of BCC) (HR, 14.32) and with estimated percentage of exposed skin surface area (26%–75%: HR, 1.99; 76%–100%: HR, 2.16 vs. 1%–25% exposed; Ptrend among exposed = .002).
    • BCC risk was not associated with prescribed radiation dose and likelihood of sun-exposed skin area.
    • Of all chemotherapy groups examined, only vinca alkaloids increased the BCC risk (HR, 1.54).
  3. The occurrence of an NMSC as the first SN has been reported to identify a population at high risk of a future invasive malignant SN.[5]
    • CCSS investigators observed a cumulative incidence of a malignant neoplasm of 20.3% (95% CI, 13.0%–27.6%) at 15 years among radiation-exposed survivors who developed an NMSC as a first SN, compared with 10.7% (95% CI, 7.2%–14.2%) among survivors whose first SN was an invasive malignancy.

Malignant melanoma has also been reported as an SN in childhood cancer survivor cohorts, although at a much lower incidence than NMSCs.

Risk factors for malignant melanoma identified among these studies include the following:[66]

  • Radiation therapy.
  • Combination of alkylating agents and antimitotic drugs.

Evidence (excess risk of melanoma):

  1. A systematic review that included data from 19 original studies (total N = 151,575 survivors; median follow-up of 13 years) observed an incidence of 10.8 cases of malignant melanoma per 100,000 childhood cancer survivors per year.[66]
    • Melanomas most frequently developed in survivors of Hodgkin lymphoma, hereditary retinoblastoma, soft tissue sarcoma, and gonadal tumors, but the relatively small number of survivors represented in the relevant studies preclude assessment of melanoma risk among other types of childhood cancer.
  2. CCSS investigators observed an approximate 2.5-fold increased risk (SIR, 2.42; 95% CI, 1.77–3.23) of melanoma among members of their cohort (median time to development, 21.0 years).[67]
    • The cumulative incidence of first subsequent melanoma at 35 years from initial cancer diagnosis was 0.55% (95% CI, 0.37%–0.73%), and absolute excess risk was 0.10 per 1,000 person-years (95% CI, 0.05–0.15).
    • Family history of cancer, demographic, or treatment-related factors did not predict risk of melanoma.

Lung cancer

Among childhood cancer survivor cohorts, lung cancer represents a relatively uncommon SN, with a long latency from the childhood cancer diagnosis to the development of a lung SN.[9]

Evidence (excess risk of lung cancer):

  1. The 25-year cumulative incidence of lung cancer among the DCOG-LATER cohort was 0.1% (95% CI, 0.0%–0.3%).[9]
    • Incidence was approximately fourfold higher than what would be expected in the general population (SIR, 4.3; 95% CI, 1.9–8.5).
  2. Lung cancer has been reported after chest irradiation for Hodgkin lymphoma.[68]
    • The risk increases in association with longer elapsed time from diagnosis.
  3. Smoking has been linked with the occurrence of lung cancer that develops after radiation therapy for Hodgkin lymphoma.[68]
    • The increase in risk of lung cancer with increasing radiation dose is greater among patients who smoke after exposure to radiation than among those who refrain from smoking (P = .04).

Gastrointestinal (GI) cancer

There is substantial evidence that childhood cancer survivors develop GI malignancies more frequently and at a younger age than the general population; this evidence supports the need for early initiation of colorectal carcinoma surveillance.[12,69-71]

Evidence (excess risk of GI cancer):

  1. The Late Effects Study Group reported a 63.9-fold increased risk of gastric cancers and 36.4-fold increased risk of colorectal cancers in adult survivors of childhood Hodgkin lymphoma. In addition to previous radiation therapy, younger age (0–5 years) at the time of the primary cancer therapy significantly increased risk.[12]
  2. In a French and British cohort-nested, case-control study of childhood solid cancer survivors diagnosed before age 17 years, the risk of developing an SN in the digestive organs varied with therapy.[69]
    • The risk of GI cancer was 9.7-fold higher than in population controls.
    • The SNs most often involved the colon/rectum (42%), liver (24%), and stomach (19%).
    • A strong radiation dose-response relationship, with an OR of 5.2 (95% CI, 1.7–16.0) for local radiation doses between 10 Gy and 29 Gy and 9.6 (95% CI, 2.6–35.2) for doses of 30 Gy and above, compared with survivors who had not received radiation therapy.
    • Chemotherapy alone and combined-modality therapy were associated with a significantly increased risk of developing a GI SN (SIR, 9.1; 95% CI, 2.3–23.6; SIR 29.0; 95% CI, 20.5–39.8).
  3. CCSS investigators reported a 4.6-fold higher risk of GI SNs among their study participants than in the general population (95% CI, 3.4–6.1).[70]
    • The SNs most often involved the colon (39%), rectum/anus (16%), liver (18%), and stomach (13%).
    • The SIR for colorectal cancer was 4.2 (CI, 2.8–6.3).
    • The most prevalent GI SN histology was adenocarcinoma (56%).
    • The highest risk of GI SNs was associated with abdominal irradiation (SIR, 11.2; CI, 7.6–16.4), but survivors not exposed to radiation also had a significantly increased risk (SIR, 2.4; CI, 1.4–3.9).
    • High-dose procarbazine (RR, 3.2; CI, 1.1–9.4) and platinum drugs (RR, 7.6; CI, 2.3–25.5) independently increased the risk of GI SNs.
  4. St. Jude Children's Research Hospital investigators observed that the SIR for subsequent colorectal carcinoma was 10.9 (95% CI, 6.6–17.0) compared with U.S. population controls. Investigators also observed the following:[71]
    • Incidence of a subsequent colorectal carcinoma increased steeply with advancing attained age, with a 40-year cumulative incidence of 1.4% ± 0.53% among the entire cohort (N = 13,048) and 2.3% ± 0.83% for 5-year survivors.
    • Colorectal carcinoma risk increased by 70% with each 10 Gy increase in radiation dose and increasing radiation volume also increased risk.
    • Treatment with alkylating agent chemotherapy was also associated with an 8.8-fold excess risk of subsequent colorectal carcinoma.
  5. A multi-institutional prospective study observed that potentially precancerous neoplastic polyps were found in 27.8% of childhood cancer survivors who received radiation to the abdomen/pelvis at least 10 years earlier and who had colonoscopic screening between age 35 and 49 years.[72]
    • This polyp prevalence is at least as high as that previously reported for the average-risk population older than 50 years and is similar to the 24% incidence rate for patients with hereditary non-polyposis colon cancer; polyp prevalence rates in the general population for people aged 35 to 49 years are unclear.
  6. A DCOG-LATER record linkage study evaluated the risk of histologically confirmed colorectal adenomas among 5,843 5-year childhood cancer survivors followed for a median of 24.9 years.[73]
    • The cumulative incidence of colorectal adenoma by age 45 years was 3.6% among survivors who received abdominal pelvic radiation versus 2.0% for survivors who did not receive abdominal pelvic radiation, versus 1.0% among siblings.
    • Factors associated with adenoma risk were abdominal pelvic radiation (HR, 2.1), TBI (HR, 10.6), cisplatin (HR, 2.1 for <480 mg/m2; HR, 3.8 for ≥480 mg/m2), diagnosis of hepatoblastoma (HR, 27.1), and family history of early-onset colorectal cancer (HR, 20.5).
    • Procarbazine exposure was also associated with an increased risk among survivors not exposed to abdominal pelvic radiation or TBI (HR, 2.7).

Renal carcinoma

Consistent with reports among survivors of adult-onset cancer, an increased risk of renal carcinoma has been observed in survivors of childhood cancer.[25,74,75] Underlying genetic predisposition may also play a role in the risk of developing renal carcinomas because rare cases of renal carcinoma have been observed in children with tuberous sclerosis.[74] Cases of secondary renal carcinoma associated with Xp11.2 translocations and TFE3 gene fusions have also been reported and suggest that cytotoxic chemotherapy may contribute to renal carcinogenesis.[76-78]

Evidence (excess risk of renal carcinoma):

  1. CCSS investigators reported a significant excess of subsequent renal carcinoma among 14,358 5-year survivors in the cohort (SIR, 8.0; 95% CI, 5.2–11.7) compared with the general population.[74]
    1. The reported overall absolute excess risk of 8.4 per 105 person-years indicates that these cases are relatively rare. Highest risk was observed among the following:
      • Neuroblastoma survivors (SIR, 85.8; 95% CI, 38.4–175.2).[74] Radiation has been hypothesized to predispose children with high-risk neuroblastoma to renal carcinoma.[79]
      • Those treated with renal-directed radiation therapy of 5 Gy or higher (RR, 3.8; 95% CI, 1.6–9.3).[74]
      • Those treated with platinum-based chemotherapy (RR, 3.5; 95% CI, 1.0–11.2).[74]

Survival Outcomes after SNs

Outcome after the diagnosis of an SN is variable, as treatment for some histological subtypes may be compromised if childhood cancer therapy included cumulative doses of agents and modalities at the threshold of tissue tolerance.[80]

Using data from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program, individuals younger than 60 years with first primary malignancies (n = 1,332,203) were compared with childhood cancer survivors (n = 1,409) who had a second primary malignancy.[81]

  • Survivors of childhood cancer diagnosed with a second primary malignancy experienced poorer overall survival than did their peers without a history of cancer (HR, 1.86; 95% Cl, 1.72–2.02) after the study had accounted for cancer type, age, sex, race, and decade of diagnosis.
  • A history of childhood cancer was consistently associated with a twofold to threefold increased risk of death for the most commonly diagnosed second primary malignancies, including breast cancer, thyroid cancer, acute myelogenous leukemia, brain cancer, melanoma, bone cancer, and soft tissue sarcoma.

In a study of female participants in the CCSS who were subsequently diagnosed with breast cancer (n = 274) and matched to a control group of women (n = 1,095) with de novo breast cancer, survivors of childhood cancer were found to have elevated mortality rates (HR, 2.2; 95% CI, 1.7–3.0) even after adjusting for breast cancer treatment.[46]

  • Survivors were five times more likely to die as a result of other health-related causes, including other SMNs and cardiovascular or pulmonary disease (HR, 5.5; 95% CI, 3.4–9.0).
  • The cumulative incidence of a second asynchronous breast cancer was elevated significantly compared with controls (at 5 years, 8.0% among childhood cancer survivors vs. 2.7% among controls; P < .001).

Subsequent Neoplasms and Genetic Susceptibility

Literature clearly supports the role of chemotherapy and radiation therapy in the development of SNs. However, interindividual variability exists, suggesting that genetic variation has a role in susceptibility to genotoxic exposures, or that genetic susceptibility syndromes confer an increased risk of cancer, such as Li-Fraumeni syndrome.[82,83]

Previous studies have demonstrated that childhood cancer survivors with a family history of Li-Fraumeni syndrome in particular, or a family history of cancer, carry an increased risk of developing an SN.[84,85]

The risk of SNs could potentially be modified by mutations in high-penetrance genes that lead to these serious genetic diseases (e.g., Li-Fraumeni syndrome).[85] However, the attributable risk is expected to be very small because of the extremely low prevalence of mutations in high-penetrance genes.

Likewise, children with neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) who develop a primary tumor are at an increased risk of SNs compared with childhood cancer survivors without NF1. Treatment with radiation, but not alkylating agents, increases the risk of SNs in survivors with NF1.[86]

Table 1 summarizes the spectrum of neoplasms, affected genes, and Mendelian mode of inheritance of selected syndromes of inherited cancer predisposition.

Table 1. Selected Syndromes of Inherited Cancer Predispositiona
SyndromeMajor Tumor TypesAffected GeneMode of Inheritance
AML = acute myeloid leukemia; MDS = myelodysplastic syndromes; WAGR = Wilms tumor, aniridia, genitourinary anomalies, mental retardation.
aAdapted from Strahm et al.[87]
bDominant in a fraction of patients, spontaneous mutations can occur.
Adenomatous polyposis of the colonColon, hepatoblastoma, intestinal cancers, stomach, thyroid cancer APCDominant
Ataxia-telangiectasiaLeukemia, lymphomaATMRecessive
Beckwith-Wiedemann syndromeAdrenal carcinoma, hepatoblastoma, rhabdomyosarcoma, Wilms tumorCDKN1C/NSD1Dominant
Bloom syndromeLeukemia, lymphoma, skin cancerBLMRecessive
Diamond-Blackfan anemiaColon cancer, osteogenic sarcoma, AML/MDSRPS19 and other RP genesDominant, spontaneousb
Fanconi anemiaGynecological tumors, leukemia, squamous cell carcinomaFANCA, FANCB, FANCC, FANCD2, FANCE, FANCF, FANCGRecessive
Juvenile polyposis syndromeGastrointestinal tumorsSMAD4/DPC4Dominant
Li-Fraumeni syndromeAdrenocortical carcinoma, brain tumor, breast carcinoma, leukemia, osteosarcoma, soft tissue sarcomaTP53Dominant
Multiple endocrine neoplasia 1Pancreatic islet cell tumor, parathyroid adenoma, pituitary adenomaMEN1Dominant
Multiple endocrine neoplasia 2Medullary thyroid carcinoma, pheochromocytomaRETDominant
Neurofibromatosis type 1Neurofibroma, optic pathway glioma, peripheral nerve sheath tumorNF1Dominant
Neurofibromatosis type 2Vestibular schwannomaNF2Dominant
Nevoid basal cell carcinoma syndromeBasal cell carcinoma, medulloblastomaPTCHDominant
Peutz-Jeghers syndromeIntestinal cancers, ovarian carcinoma, pancreatic carcinomaSTK11Dominant
RetinoblastomaOsteosarcoma, retinoblastoma RB1Dominant
Tuberous sclerosisHamartoma, renal angiomyolipoma, renal cell carcinomaTSC1/TSC2Dominant
von Hippel-Lindau syndromeHemangioblastoma, pheochromocytoma, renal cell carcinoma, retinal and central nervous system tumors VHLDominant
WAGR syndromeGonadoblastoma, Wilms tumor WT1Dominant
Wilms tumor syndromeWilms tumorWT1Dominant
Xeroderma pigmentosumLeukemia, melanoma XPA, XPB, XPC, XPD, XPE, XPF, XPG, POLHRecessive

Drug-metabolizing enzymes and DNA repair polymorphisms

The interindividual variability in risk of SNs is more likely related to common polymorphisms in low-penetrance genes that regulate the availability of active drug metabolites or are responsible for DNA repair. Gene-environment interactions may magnify subtle functional differences resulting from genetic variations.

Drug-metabolizing enzymes

Metabolism of genotoxic agents occurs in two phases.

  1. Phase I involves activation of substrates into highly reactive electrophilic intermediates that can damage DNA, a reaction principally performed by the cytochrome p450 (CYP) family of enzymes.
  2. Phase II enzymes (conjugation) function to inactivate genotoxic substrates. The phase II proteins comprise the glutathione S-transferase (GST) enzymes, NAD(P)H:quinone oxidoreductase-1 (NQO1) enzyme, and others.

The balance between the two sets of enzymes is critical to the cellular response to xenobiotics; for example, high activity of a phase I enzyme and low activity of a phase II enzyme can result in DNA damage.

DNA repair polymorphisms

DNA repair mechanisms protect somatic cells from mutations in tumor suppressor genes and oncogenes that can lead to cancer initiation and progression. An individual’s DNA repair capacity appears to be genetically determined.[88] A number of DNA repair genes contain polymorphic variants, resulting in large interindividual variations in DNA repair capacity.[88] Evaluation of the contribution of polymorphisms influencing DNA repair to the risk of SN represents an active area of research.

Screening and Follow-up for Subsequent Neoplasms

Vigilant screening is important for childhood cancer survivors at risk.[89] Because of the relatively small size of the pediatric cancer survivor population and the prevalence and time to onset of therapy-related complications, undertaking clinical studies to assess the impact of screening recommendations on the morbidity and mortality associated with the late effect is not feasible.

Well-conducted studies of large populations of childhood cancer survivors have provided compelling evidence linking specific therapeutic exposures and late effects. This evidence has been used by several national and international cooperative groups (Scottish Collegiate Guidelines Network, Children’s Cancer and Leukaemia Group, Children's Oncology Group [COG], DCOG) to develop consensus-based clinical practice guidelines to increase awareness and standardize the immediate care needs of medically vulnerable childhood cancer survivors.[90]

All pediatric cancer survivor health screening guidelines employ a hybrid approach that is both evidence-based (utilizing established associations between therapeutic exposures and late effects to identify high-risk categories) and grounded in the collective clinical experience of experts (matching the magnitude of the risk with the intensity of the screening recommendations). The screening recommendations in these guidelines represent a statement of consensus from a panel of experts in the late effects of pediatric cancer treatment.[89,90]

The COG Guidelines for malignant SNs indicate that certain high-risk populations of childhood cancer survivors merit heightened surveillance because of predisposing host, behavioral, or therapeutic factors.[89]

  • Screening for leukemia: t-MDS or t-AML usually manifests within 10 years after exposure. Recommendations include monitoring with history and physical examination for signs and symptoms of pancytopenia for 10 years after exposure to alkylating agents or topoisomerase II inhibitors.
  • Screening after radiation exposure: Most other SNs are associated with radiation exposure and usually manifest more than 10 years after exposure. Screening recommendations include careful annual physical examination of the skin and exposed (often underlying) tissues in the radiation field.

    Specific comments about screening for more common radiation-associated SNs are as follows:

    • Screening for early-onset skin cancer: Annual dermatological exam focusing on skin lesions and pigmented nevi in the radiation field is recommended. Survivors are counseled about the following:
      • Increased risk of skin cancer.
      • Potential exacerbation of risk through tanning.
      • Benefits of adhering to behaviors to protect the skin from excessive ultraviolet radiation exposure.
    • Screening for early-onset breast cancer: Because outcome after breast cancer is directly linked to stage at diagnosis, close surveillance resulting in early diagnosis may confer survival advantage.[29] Several pediatric cancer groups have endorsed the recommendation for early (before population breast cancer screening) initiation of breast cancer surveillance using mammography, breast MRI, or both imaging modalities in young women who were treated with chest irradiation.[29]

      Mammography, the most widely accepted screening tool for breast cancer in the general population, may not be the ideal screening tool by itself for radiation-related breast cancers occurring in relatively young women with dense breasts. On the basis of research among young women with inherited susceptibility to breast cancer, dual-imaging modalities may enhance early detection related to the higher sensitivity of MRI in detecting lesions in premenopausal dense breasts and the superiority of mammography in identifying ductal carcinoma in situ;[91-93] therefore, the American Cancer Society recommends including adjunct screening with MRI.[94] The high sensitivity and specificity in detecting early-stage lesions with dual-imaging surveillance is offset by a substantial rate of additional investigations attributable to false-positive results.[93]

      Many clinicians are concerned about potential harms related to radiation exposure associated with annual mammography in these young women. In this regard, it is important to consider that the estimated mean breast dose with contemporary standard two-view screening mammograms is about 3.85 mGy to 4.5 mGy.[95-97] Thus, 15 additional surveillance mammograms from age 25 to 39 years would increase the total radiation exposure in a woman treated with 20 Gy of chest radiation to 20.05775 Gy. The benefits of detection of early breast cancer lesions in high-risk women must be balanced by the risk predisposed by a 0.3% additional radiation exposure.

      To keep young women engaged in breast health surveillance, the COG Guideline recommends the following for females who received a radiation dose of 10 Gy or higher to the mantle, mediastinal, whole lung, and axillary fields:

      • Monthly breast self-examination beginning at puberty.
      • Annual clinical breast examinations beginning at puberty until age 25 years.
      • A clinical breast examination every 6 months, with annual mammograms and MRIs beginning 8 years after radiation therapy or at age 25 years (whichever occurs later).

      The risk of breast cancer in patients who received less than 10 Gy of radiation with potential impact to the breast is of a lower magnitude compared with those who received more than 10 Gy. Monitoring of patients treated with less than 10 Gy of radiation with potential impact to the breast is determined on an individual basis after a discussion with the provider regarding the benefits and risk/harms of screening. If a decision is made to screen, the recommendations for women exposed to more than 10 Gy are used.

    • Screening for early-onset colorectal cancer: Screening of those at risk of early-onset colorectal cancer (i.e., radiation doses of 20 Gy or higher to the abdomen, pelvis, or spine) includes colonoscopy every 5 years or multitarget stool DNA test every 3 years beginning at age 30 years or 5 years after radiation therapy (whichever occurs later).[72]
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Late Effects of the Cardiovascular System

Cardiovascular disease, after recurrence of the original cancer and development of second primary cancers, has been reported to be the leading cause of premature mortality among long-term childhood cancer survivors.[1-3]

Evidence (excess risk of premature cardiovascular mortality):

  1. Among more than 20,000 North American 5-year survivors of childhood cancer (in the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study [CCSS]) treated from 1970 to 1986, participants had a standardized mortality ratio of 7.0 (95% confidence interval [CI], 5.9–8.2) for cardiac mortality, which translated to 0.36 excess deaths per 1,000 person-years.[4] Late cardiac mortality in children who were treated more recently (i.e., in the 1990s) appears to have decreased (e.g., the cumulative incidence was 0.5% in 1970–1974 vs. 0.1% in 1990–1994).[1]
  2. Cardiac disease becomes increasingly important as childhood cancer survivors reach mature adulthood, as observed in the population-based British Childhood Cancer Survivor Study, comprised of 34,489 5-year survivors of childhood cancer diagnosed from 1940 to 2006.[2,5]
    • In survivors of childhood cancer aged 60 years and older, circulatory disease overtakes subsequent primary neoplasms as the leading cause of excess mortality (37% of the excess number of deaths observed were caused by circulatory conditions compared with 31% of excess number of deaths caused by subsequent primary neoplasms).[2]
    • The risk of both overall cardiac and cardiomyopathy/heart failure mortality was greatest among those diagnosed from 1980 to 1989. Survivors who were diagnosed from 1980 to 1989 had 28.9 times the excess number of cardiac deaths as did survivors who were diagnosed either before 1970 or from 1990 to the present.[5]

The specific late effects covered in this section include the following:

  • Cardiomyopathy/heart failure.
  • Ischemic heart disease.
  • Pericardial heart disease.
  • Valve disease.
  • Conduction disorders.
  • Cerebrovascular disease.
  • Venous thromboembolism.

The section will also briefly discuss the influence of related conditions such as hypertension, dyslipidemia, and diabetes in relation to these late effects, but not directly review in detail those conditions as a consequence of childhood cancer treatment. A comprehensive review of long-term cardiovascular toxicity in childhood and young adult survivors of cancer, issued by the American Heart Association, has been published.[6]

Sources of Evidence for Cardiovascular Outcomes

  • Numerous studies focus on cardiac events among childhood cancer survivors. Very large cohort studies exist, many with several decades of follow-up, that are either hospital based,[7-10] clinical trial based,[11,12] or population based.[2,3,5,13]
  • Notably, the average age of these populations is still relatively young (early or mid-adulthood). Consequently, the reported risk of serious cardiovascular outcomes is very high relative to the age-matched general population, whereas the absolute risk often remains low, limiting the power of many studies.
  • Among the very large studies featuring thousands of survivors, the main limitation has been inadequate ability to clinically ascertain late cardiovascular complications, with a greater reliance on either administrative records (e.g., death registries) and/or self-report or proxy-report.
  • While each study design has some inherent biases, the overall literature, based on a combination of self-reported outcomes, clinical ascertainment, and administrative data sources, is robust in concluding that certain cancer-related exposures predispose survivors toward a significantly greater risk of cardiovascular morbidity and mortality.
  • Although late effects research often lags behind changes in contemporary therapy, many therapies linked to cardiovascular late effects remain in common use today.[14,15]
  • Ongoing research is important to ensure that use of the newer targeted agents being introduced today do not result in unexpected cardiovascular effects.[16]

Evidence (selected cohort studies describing cardiovascular outcomes):

  1. CCSS investigators reported on major cardiac events among participants diagnosed with childhood cancer between 1970 and 1999.[17]
    • In this update, the 20-year cumulative incidence of heart failure and coronary artery disease for patients treated in the 1990s declined over the decades to 0.54% and 0.19%, respectively, but was significant only for coronary artery disease.
    • The risk of coronary artery disease was significantly decreased from the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s (0.38%, 0.24%, and 0.19%, respectively; hazard ratio [HR], 0.65) and was attributed to historical reductions in exposure to cardiac radiation, particularly among survivors of Hodgkin lymphoma.
    • For patients treated in the 1990s, the 20-year cumulative incidence was 0.05% for valvular disease, 0.03% for pericardial disease, and 0.13% for arrhythmias; these numbers did not change over the eras (1970–1990).
  2. In the CCSS, data from 24,214 5-year survivors diagnosed between 1970 and 1999 were used to assess the impacts of radiation therapy dose and exposed cardiac volume, select chemotherapeutic agents, and age at exposure on the risk of late-onset cardiac disease (refer to Figure 6).[18]
    • The cumulative incidence of cardiac disease (any cardiac disease, coronary artery disease, and heart failure) 30 years from diagnosis was 4.8%. Male survivors were more likely to develop coronary artery disease and less likely to develop heart failure than were female survivors. Non-Hispanic black survivors were more likely to develop any cardiac disease than were non-Hispanic white survivors.
    • Low-to-moderate radiation therapy doses (5.0–19.9 Gy) to large cardiac volumes (>50% of the heart) were associated with a 1.6-fold increased risk of cardiac disease compared with survivors who did not have any cardiac radiation therapy exposure.
    • High doses (>20 Gy) to small cardiac volumes (0.1%–29.9%) were associated with an elevated rate of cardiac disease compared with unexposed survivors.
    • A dose-response relationship was observed between anthracycline exposure and heart failure, with younger children (<13 years) at the greatest risk of heart failure after comparable dosing.
    EnlargeChart showing therapy-related cardiac risk in childhood cancer survivors.
    Figure 6. Cumulative incidence of therapy-related cardiac risk in childhood cancer survivors, based on (A-C) mean heart dose, (D-F) volume of heart (%) receiving radiotherapy (RT) greater than or equal to 20 Gy, and (G-I) volume of heart (%) receiving RT greater than or equal to 5 Gy when maximum heart dose is less than 20 Gy. (J-L) Cumulative anthracycline dose. (*) 0% maximum radiation dose to the heart = 0.1 to 19.9 Gy. (†) 0% maximum radiation dose to the heart = 0.1 to 4.9 Gy. Reprinted with permission. © 2019 American Society of Clinical Oncology. All rights reserved. Bates JE, Howell RM, Liu Q, et al: Therapy-Related Cardiac Risk in Childhood Cancer Survivors: An Analysis of the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study. J Clin Oncol, Vol. 37 (Issue 13), 2019: 1090-1101.
  3. A multicenter French cohort of 3,162 5-year survivors treated between 1942 and 1986 were monitored for a median of 26 years.[9]
    • The cumulative incidence of any cardiac disease (ischemic heart disease, heart failure, arrhythmia, or valve and pericardial diseases) by age 40 years was 11% (7% if restricted to those that warranted medical intervention).
    • Risk increased with higher anthracycline and radiation doses, particularly anthracycline doses of 250 mg/m2 or more and heart radiation doses of 15 Gy or higher.
    • A significant interaction was identified between radiation dose, anthracycline exposure, and attained age.
  4. A Dutch hospital-based cohort of 1,362 5-year childhood cancer survivors (median attained age, 29.1 years) were monitored from diagnosis for a median of 22.2 years.[19]
    • The 30-year cause-specific cumulative incidence of symptomatic cardiac events (congestive heart failure, cardiac ischemia, valve disease, arrhythmia, and/or pericarditis) was significantly increased after treatment with both anthracyclines and cardiac radiation (12.6%; 95% CI, 4.3%–20.3%), anthracyclines alone (7.3%; 95% CI, 3.8%–10.7%), and cardiac radiation alone (4.0%; 95% CI, 0.5%–7.4%) compared with other treatments.
  5. The CCSS demonstrated that the cumulative incidence of serious cardiac events (myocardial infarction, congestive heart failure, pericardial disease, and valvular abnormalities) in childhood cancer survivors continues to increase beyond age 45 years.[7]
    • The risk of these events was potentiated (i.e., beyond what would be expected by an additive model) by the presence of concurrent, but potentially modifiable, conditions such as obesity, dyslipidemia, diabetes, and, particularly, hypertension.
    • Hypertension was independently associated with all serious cardiac outcomes (rate ratios [RRs], 6-fold to 19-fold), even after adjustment for anthracycline use and chest irradiation.
  6. Of 670 survivors of Hodgkin lymphoma who were treated at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital (SJCRH) and have lived 10 or more years, 348 patients were clinically assessed in the St. Jude Lifetime Cohort Study.[20]
    • Overall, survivors had a higher cumulative burden (a novel measurement of disease burden that incorporates multiple health conditions and recurrent events into a single metric) than did community controls, with the total grade 3 to 5 cumulative burden among survivors at age 30 years being comparable to that of community controls at 50 years.
    • At age 50 years, the cumulative incidence of those survivors experiencing at least one grade 3 to grade 5 cardiovascular condition was 45.5% (95% CI, 36.6%–54.3%), compared with 15.7% (95% CI, 7.0%–24.4%) in community controls.
    • Myocardial infarction and structural heart defects were the major contributors to the excess grade 3 to grade 5 cumulative burden in survivors, whereas there was no notable difference in survivors and community controls at age 50 years for grades 3 to 5 cumulative burden of dyslipidemia and essential hypertension.
  7. Another St. Jude Lifetime Cohort Study compared the prevalence of major and minor electrocardiography (ECG) abnormalities among 2,715 participants and 268 community controls.[21]
    • Major ECG abnormalities were significantly more prevalent in survivors (10.7%) than in controls (4.9%); the most common abnormalities included isolated ST-T wave abnormalities (7.2%), evidence of myocardial infarction (3.7%), and left ventricular hypertrophy with strain pattern (2.8%).
    • Treatment exposures predicting increased risk of major abnormalities were anthracycline doses of 300 mg/m2 or greater (odds ratio [OR], 1.7; 95% CI, 1.1–2.5) and cardiac radiation (OR, 2.1; 95% CI, 1.5–2.9 [1–1,999 cGy]; OR, 2.6; 95% CI, 1.6–3.9 [2,000–2,999 cGy]; OR, 10.5; 95% CI, 6.5–16.9 [≥3,000 cGy]).
    • Major ECG abnormalities were predictive of all-cause mortality (HR, 4.0; 95% CI, 2.1–7.8).
  8. In the Teenage and Young Adult Cancer Survivor Study, cardiac mortality was investigated in more than 200,000 5-year survivors of adolescent and young adult cancer (aged 15–39 years).[3]
    • Age at diagnosis and type of cancer were identified as being important in determining risk of cardiac mortality.
    • The standardized mortality ratios for all cardiac disease combined was greatest for individuals diagnosed at age 15 to 19 years (4.2), decreasing to 1.2 for individuals aged 35 to 39 years (2P for trend < .0001). This age effect was most apparent for survivors of Hodgkin lymphoma, who were also found to be at greatest risk overall.
    • Limitations of this study included lack of detailed information on exposures to radiation therapy (doses, fields), exposures to chemotherapy (primarily anthracycline dose), and cardiovascular risk factors (e.g., smoking, obesity, hypertension, diabetes, family history).

Treatment Risk Factors

Chemotherapy (in particular, anthracyclines and anthraquinones) along with radiation therapy both independently and in combination, increase the risk of cardiovascular disease in survivors of childhood cancer and are considered to be the most important risk factors contributing to premature cardiovascular disease in this population (refer to Figure 7).[19]

EnlargeFive charts showing marginal and cause-specific cumulative incidence of cardiac events among childhood cancer survivors according to different treatment groups.
Figure 7. (A, B) Marginal (Kaplan-Meier) and (C–E) cause-specific (competing risk) cumulative incidence of cardiac events (CEs) in childhood cancer survivors stratified according to different treatment groups. (A) Marginal cumulative incidence for all CEs, stratified according to potential cardiotoxic (CTX) therapy or no CTX therapy, log-rank P < .001. (B) Marginal cumulative incidence for all CEs, stratified according to different CTX therapies, log-rank P < .001. (C) Cause-specific cumulative incidence for congestive heart failure, stratified according to different treatment groups, log-rank P < .001. (D) Cause-specific cumulative incidence for cardiac ischemia, stratified according to cardiac irradiation (RTX) or no RTX, log-rank P = .01. (E) Cause-specific cumulative incidence for valvular disease, stratified according to RTX or no RTX, log-rank P < .001. The shaded colorized background areas refer to the 95% CIs. Ant, anthracycline. Helena J. van der Pal, Elvira C. van Dalen, Evelien van Delden, Irma W. van Dijk, Wouter E. Kok, Ronald B. Geskus, Elske Sieswerda, Foppe Oldenburger, Caro C. Koning, Flora E. van Leeuwen, Huib N. Caron, Leontien C. Kremer, High Risk of Symptomatic Cardiac Events in Childhood Cancer Survivors, Journal of Clinical Oncology, volume 30, issue 13, pages 1429-1437. Reprinted with permission. © (2012) American Society of Clinical Oncology. All rights reserved.

Anthracyclines and related agents

Anthracyclines (e.g., doxorubicin, daunorubicin, idarubicin, and epirubicin) and anthraquinones (e.g., mitoxantrone) are known to directly injure cardiomyocytes through inhibition of topoisomerase 2-beta in cardiomyocytes and formation of reactive oxygen species, resulting in activation of cell-death pathways and inhibition of mitochondrial apoptosis.[22,23] The downstream results of cell death are changes in heart structure, including wall thinning, which leads to ventricular overload and pathologic remodeling that, over time, leads to dysfunction and eventual clinical heart failure.[24,25]

Risk factors for anthracycline-related cardiomyopathy include the following:[18,26]

  • Cumulative dose, particularly greater than 250 mg/m2 to 300 mg/m2.
  • Younger age at time of exposure, particularly children younger than 5 years.
  • Increased time from exposure.
  • While it is not completely certain whether there is a truly safe lower dose threshold, doses in excess of 250 mg/m2 to 300 mg/m2 have been associated with a substantially increased risk of cardiomyopathy, with cumulative incidences exceeding 5% after 20 years of follow-up, and in some subgroups, reaching or exceeding 10% cumulative incidence by age 40 years.[10,17,18,25]
  • Concurrent chest or heart radiation therapy also further increases risk of cardiomyopathy,[9,19,27] as does the presence of other cardiometabolic traits such as hypertension.[7,28]
  • While development of clinical heart failure can occur within a few years after anthracycline exposure, in most survivors—even those who received very high doses—clinical manifestations may not occur for decades.

EnlargeChart showing risk of anthracycline-induced clinical heart failure (A-CHF) according to cumulative anthracycline dose.
Figure 8. Risk of anthracycline-induced clinical heart failure (A-CHF) according to cumulative anthracycline dose. Reprinted from European Journal of Cancer, Volume 42, Elvira C. van Dalen, Helena J.H. van der Pal, Wouter E.M. Kok, Huib N. Caron, Leontien C.M. Kremer, Clinical heart failure in a cohort of children treated with anthracyclines: A long-term follow-up study, Pages 3191-3198, Copyright (2006), with permission from Elsevier.

Anthracycline dose equivalency

Traditionally, anthracycline dose equivalence has largely been based on acute hematologic toxicity equivalence rather than late cardiac toxicity.[29]

  1. Most pediatric professional societies and groups have generally considered daunorubicin equivalent, or nearly equivalent, to doxorubicin, although historically lower ratios have been proposed as well.[30,31]
  2. Analyses that pooled more than 28,000 long-term childhood cancer survivors monitored through age 40 years (resulting in 399 cardiomyopathy cases) have challenged those previous assumptions.[31,32]
    • These investigations found that daunorubicin may be significantly less cardiotoxic than doxorubicin (equivalence ratio, 0.5; 95% CI, 0.4–0.7).[31]
    • Compared with doxorubicin, mitoxantrone may be significantly more cardiotoxic than previously thought (equivalence ratio, 10.5; 95% CI, 6.2–19.1), while epirubicin appeared to be doxorubicin isoequivalent (equivalence ratio, 0.8; 95% CI, 0.3–1.4).[32]
    • Data were too sparse to compare idarubicin with doxorubicin.
Anthracycline cardioprotection

Cardioprotective strategies that have been explored include the following:

  1. New, less cardiotoxic agents and liposomal formulations. In general, data on whether liposomal formulations of anthracyclines reduce cardiac toxicity in children are limited.[33,34]
  2. Prolonged infusion time. Prolonged infusion time has been associated with reduced heart failure in adult patients, but not in children.[35,36]
  3. Concurrent administration of cardioprotectants. A variety of agents have been tested as cardioprotectants (amifostine, acetylcysteine, calcium channel blockers, carvedilol, coenzyme Q10, and L-carnitine), but none have been definitively shown to be beneficial and are not considered standard of care.[37,38]
  4. Dexrazoxane. There are more data for dexrazoxane as a cardioprotectant, but mainly in adult cancer patients, for whom it is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for women with metastatic breast cancer who have received 300 mg/m2 of anthracyclines and who may benefit from further anthracycline-based therapy.[37]
    • Pediatric data show that dexrazoxane may ameliorate some markers of early cardiac toxicity for up to 5 years after therapy.[39-42]
    • Dexrazoxane may be associated with an increased risk of acute toxicities in some regimens.[43]
    • An early study suggested a possible increased risk of acute myeloid leukemia,[44] but subsequent studies have not demonstrated this association.[42,45,46]
    • While these data suggest that dexrazoxane does protect the heart in the short term, there are not yet data showing a longer-term impact of dexrazoxane on cardiac health.

Radiation therapy

While anthracyclines directly damage cardiomyocytes, radiation therapy primarily affects the fine vasculature of affected organs.[6]

Cardiovascular disease

Late effects of radiation therapy to the heart specifically include the following:

  • Delayed pericarditis, which can present abruptly or as a chronic pericardial effusion.
  • Pancarditis that includes pericardial and myocardial fibrosis, with or without endocardial fibroelastosis.
  • Cardiomyopathy (in the absence of significant pericardial disease), which can occur even without anthracycline exposure.
  • Ischemic heart disease.
  • Functional valve injury, often aortic.
  • Conduction defects.

These cardiac late effects are related to the following:

  • Individual radiation fraction size.
  • Volume of the heart that is exposed to radiation.[18]
  • Total radiation dose.
    • Various studies have demonstrated a substantially increased risk of these outcomes with higher radiation doses, particularly doses to the heart exceeding 35 Gy (refer to Figure 6).[9,12,17-19]
    • At higher radiation doses, rates of heart failure, pericardial disease, and valvular disease have been reported to exceed 10% after 20 to 30 years. Although some studies suggest that doses less than 5 Gy may be associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, the relative risk is small (i.e., 2.5) and the 95% CI is large (i.e., 0.2–41.5); moreover, the dosimetric analyses are generally estimations of incidental cardiac exposure.[9,17,19]
    • Low to moderate doses of radiation therapy (5.0–19.9 Gy) to large cardiac volumes (>50% of the heart) are associated with an increased rate of cardiac disease (i.e., 1.6-fold) compared with survivors who did not have any cardiac radiation therapy exposure.[18]
    • High doses of radiation (>20 Gy) to small cardiac volumes (0.1%–29.9%) are associated with an elevated rate of cardiac disease (relative rate, 2.4).[18]
    • Additional confirmatory data are needed for an accurate assessment of risk at very low cardiac doses.
    • Similar to anthracyclines, manifestation of these late effects may take years, if not decades, to present.

Patients who were exposed to both radiation therapy affecting the cardiovascular system and cardiotoxic chemotherapy agents are at even greater risk of late cardiovascular outcomes.[9,18]

Cerebrovascular disease

Cerebrovascular disease after radiation therapy exposure is another potential late effect observed in survivors.

  • Radiation-induced vascular damage is a complex process that involves both arterial and capillary damage, with veins being less sensitive.
  • The spectrum of abnormalities includes lacunar lesions, vascular malformations, telangiectasias, intracranial hemorrhage, and moyamoya, each with potential symptomatic consequences.[47]
  • While brain tumor survivors have traditionally had the greatest risk, other survivors exposed to cranial irradiation (≥18 Gy) and neck irradiation (≥40 Gy), such as leukemia and lymphoma survivors, have also been reported to be at increased risk.[48-51]
  • In lymphoma survivors who received only chest and/or neck radiation therapy, cerebrovascular disease is thought to be caused by large-vessel atherosclerosis and cardiac embolism.[49]
  • The risk increases with cumulative dose received. One study (N = 325) reported that the stroke hazard increased by 5% (HR, 1.05; 95% CI, 1.01–1.09; P = .02), with each 1 Gy increase in the radiation dose, leading to a cumulative incidence of 2% for the first stroke after 5 years and 4% after 10 years.[52]
  • Survivors who experienced stroke were at significantly greater risk of experiencing recurrent strokes.[53]

Evidence (selected studies describing prevalence of and risk factors for cerebrovascular accident [CVA]/vascular disease):

  1. In a multicenter retrospective Dutch study, among 2,201 5-year survivors of Hodgkin lymphoma diagnosed before age 51 years (25% pediatric-aged patients), with a median follow-up of 18 years, 96 patients developed cerebrovascular disease (CVA and transient ischemic attacks [TIA]).[49]
    • Most ischemic events were from large-artery atherosclerosis (36%) or cardiac embolism (24%).
    • The cumulative incidence of ischemic CVA or TIA 30 years after lymphoma treatment was 7%.
    • The overall standardized incidence ratio (SIR) was 2.2 for CVA and 3.1 for TIA. However, SIR estimates appeared to be greater among childhood cancer survivors, with SIRs of 3.8 for CVA and 7.6 for TIA.
    • Irradiation to the neck and mediastinum was an independent risk factor for ischemic cerebrovascular disease (HR, 2.5; 95% CI, 1.1–5.6) versus no radiation therapy. Treatment with chemotherapy was not associated with increased risk.
    • Hypertension, diabetes mellitus, and hypercholesterolemia were associated with the occurrence of ischemic cerebrovascular disease.
  2. French investigators observed a significant association between radiation dose to the brain and long-term cerebrovascular mortality among 4,227 5-year childhood cancer survivors (median follow-up, 29 years).[50]
    • Survivors who received more than 50 Gy to the prepontine cistern had an HR of 17.8 (95% CI, 4.4–73.0) for death from cerebrovascular disease, compared with those who had not received radiation therapy or who had received less than 0.1 Gy in the prepontine cistern region.
  3. A retrospective, single-center, cohort study of 325 survivors of pediatric cancer treated with cranial irradiation or cervical irradiation determined that cranial irradiation put survivors at a high risk of first and recurrent strokes.[52]
    • The cumulative incidence of first stroke was 4% (95% CI, 2.0%–8.4%) at 10 years after radiation therapy. The stroke hazard increased by 5% (HR, 1.05; 95% CI, 1.01–1.09; P = .02) with each 1 Gy increase in the radiation dose.
    • The cumulative incidence of recurrent stroke was 38% (95% CI, 17%–69%) at 5 years and 59% (95% CI, 27%–92%) at 10 years after the first stroke.
  4. CCSS investigators evaluated the rates and predictors of recurrent stroke among participants who reported a first stroke.[53]
    • Among responding participants (329 of 443), 271 confirmed a first stroke (at median age, 19 years) and 70 reported a second stroke (at median age, 32 years).
    • Independent predictors of recurrent stroke included treatment with a cranial radiation therapy dose of 50 Gy or higher (vs. no cranial radiation therapy), history of hypertension, and age 40 years or older at first stroke (vs. age 0–17 years).
    • The 10-year cumulative incidence of late recurrent stroke was 21% overall, and 33% for those treated with 50 Gy or higher of cranial radiation therapy.
    • A follow-up study of 224 CCSS participants who experienced stroke demonstrated increased risk of all-cause and health-related mortality, and negative impact on social attainment, neurocognitive function, emotional distress, and other health-related quality-of-life measures.[54]
  5. A retrospective study of 3,172 5-year survivors of childhood cancer monitored for a mean time of 26 years was constituted from the Euro2K cohort, which included eight centers in France and the United Kingdom. Radiation doses to the circle of Willis were estimated for each of the 2,202 children who received radiation therapy.[55]
    • Patients who received radiation therapy had an 8.5-fold increased risk (95% CI, 6.3–11.0) of stroke in contrast to a nonelevated risk for patients not receiving radiation therapy.
    • The relative risk was 15.7 (95% CI, 4.9–50.2) for doses of 40 Gy or higher.
    • At age 45 years, the cumulative incidence was 11.3% (95% CI, 7.1%–17.7%) in patients who received 10 Gy or higher to the circle of Willis, compared with 1% in the general population.
  6. Investigators from the Teenage and Young Adult Cancer Survivor Study (N = 178,962) evaluated the risk of hospitalization for a cerebrovascular event among 5-year survivors of cancer diagnosed between age 15 and 39 years.[56]
    • The investigators found that survivors of adolescent and young adult cancers had a 40% increased risk of hospitalization for cerebrovascular event compared with the general population.
    • Survivors of central nervous system (CNS) tumors (standardized hospitalization ratios [SHR], 4.6), head and neck tumors (SHR, 2.6), and leukemia (SHR, 2.5) had the highest risk of hospitalization for a cerebrovascular complication.
    • Males had significantly higher absolute excess risks than did females, especially among head and neck tumor survivors. By age 60 years, 9% of CNS tumor survivors, 6% of head and neck tumor survivors, and 5% of leukemia survivors had been hospitalized for a cerebrovascular event.
    • The risk of hospitalization for a cerebral infarction was particularly increased among survivors of a CNS tumor older than 60 years, whereas this risk was increased across all ages in survivors of head and neck tumors.
Venous thromboembolism

Children with cancer have an excess risk of venous thromboembolism within the first 5 years after diagnosis; however, the long-term risk of venous thromboembolism among childhood cancer survivors has not been well studied.[57]

CCSS investigators evaluated self-reported late-onset (5 or more years after cancer diagnosis) venous thromboembolism among cohort members (median follow-up, 21.3 years).[58]

  • The 35-year cumulative incidence of venous thromboembolism among survivors was 4.9%, which represented a more-than-twofold–higher risk compared with a sibling cohort (rate ratio [RR], 2.2; 95% CI, 1.7–2.8).
  • Risk factors for venous thromboembolism among survivors included female sex, treatment with cisplatin or asparaginase, obesity or underweight, and recurrent primary or subsequent cancer.
  • The risk of late venous thromboembolism was higher among survivors of lower-extremity osteosarcoma treated with limb-sparing surgery compared with patients treated with amputation, possibly resulting from alterations in peripheral vascular anatomy and homeostasis.
  • Venous thromboembolism was associated with an almost-twofold increased risk of late mortality (RR, 1.9; 95% CI, 1.6–2.3).

Conventional cardiovascular conditions

  • Various cancer treatment exposures may also directly or indirectly influence the development of hypertension, diabetes mellitus, and dyslipidemia.[6]
  • These conditions remain important among cancer survivors, as they do in the general population, in that they are independent risk factors in the development of cardiomyopathy, ischemic heart disease, and cerebrovascular disease.[7,49,59-61]
  • Childhood cancer survivors should be closely monitored for the development of these cardiovascular conditions because they represent potentially modifiable targets for intervention.
  • Related conditions such as obesity and various endocrinopathies (e.g., hypothyroidism, hypogonadism, growth hormone deficiency) that may be more common among subsets of childhood cancer survivors also need to be monitored; if these conditions are untreated/uncontrolled, they may be associated with a metabolic profile that increases cardiovascular risk.[8] (Refer to the Risk prediction for cardiovascular diseases section of this summary for more information.)

Other Risk Factors

Sex. Some, but not all, studies suggest that female sex may be associated with a greater risk of anthracycline-related cardiomyopathy.[6]

Genetics. There is emerging evidence that genetic factors, such as single nucleotide polymorphisms in genes regulating drug metabolism and distribution, could explain the heterogeneity in susceptibility to anthracycline-mediated cardiac injury.[62-67] However, these genetic findings still require additional validation before integration into any clinical screening algorithm.[68]

Peripartum Cardiac Dysfunction

Long-term survivors of childhood, adolescent, and young adult malignancies with past exposure to potentially cardiotoxic treatments are at risk of peripartum cardiac dysfunction.

In the general population, peripartum cardiomyopathy (PPCM) is a rare condition characterized by heart failure during pregnancy (usually the last trimester or <5 months postpartum). The estimated incidence in the general population is 1:3,000 live births.[69]

There are limited data available about the prevalence in survivors of pediatric, adolescent, and young adult malignancies who have received cardiotoxic therapies. Peripartum cardiac assessment is recommended for at-risk patients.

  • In a retrospective series from SJCRH, 3 cases of peripartum cardiac dysfunction occurred in 1,554 completed pregnancies which was an incidence of 0.2%; 27% of the 847 long-term survivors had not been exposed to cardiotoxic therapies.[70]
  • In a series of 64 women who had all received cardiotoxic therapy (44% received chest radiation therapy plus anthracyclines, 14% received chest radiation therapy, 42% received anthracycline alone), 5 women (7.8%) had peripartum cardiac events (3 symptomatic, 2 subclinical). Of the 110 live births, 2 were defined as PPCM, representing a 55-fold increased risk over the general population. Risk factors were younger age at cancer diagnosis and higher anthracycline dose. Postpartum cardiac function failed to return to baseline in four women (80%).[71]

Heart Transplant After Childhood Cancer

Data about the prevalence and outcomes of survivors with heart failure requiring heart transplantation is limited.

  • In a study of solid organ transplants in 13,318 survivors in the CCSS, 62 survivors had end-stage heart failure that warranted heart transplants, 37 of whom received a heart transplant.[72]
  • At 35 years after cancer diagnosis, the cumulative incidence of heart transplant was 0.30%, and the cumulative incidence of being placed on the waiting list or receiving a heart was 0.49%.[72]
  • The 5-year survival rate from heart transplant was 80.6%, which is similar to the outcome in the general population of the same age range.[72]

Knowledge Deficits

While much knowledge has been gained over the past 20 years in better understanding the long-term burden and risk factors for cardiovascular disease among childhood cancer survivors, many areas of inquiry remain, and include the following:

  • Radiation may have both direct and indirect effects on vascular endothelium, contributing to vascular damage beyond the primary radiation field.[73]
  • The long-term effects of lower radiation doses, particularly in the setting of advanced technology that allows tumor targeting from multiple directions and reduces exposure to surrounding normal tissues, remain to be determined.[74]
  • The long-term effects of many newer anticancer agents that are based on molecular targets remains unclear, although some of them are known to have shorter-term cardiac toxicity.[16]
  • The efficacy of cardioprotective strategies, including the use of alternative anthracycline formulations that appear promising in adults, requires further study in children.[38]

Screening, Surveillance, and Counseling

Various national groups, including the National Institutes of Health–sponsored Children's Oncology Group (COG) (refer to Table 2), have published recommendations regarding screening and surveillance for cardiovascular and other late effects among childhood cancer survivors.[75-77] (Refer to COG's Long-Term Follow-Up Guidelines for more information.)

Professional groups (both pediatric and adult) have developed evidence-based health surveillance recommendations and have identified knowledge deficits to help guide future studies.[26,78]

Adult oncology professional and national groups have also issued recommendations related to cardiac toxicity monitoring.[79]

Consensus regarding evidence about screening, surveillance, and counseling

  • There is no clear evidence (at least through age 50 years or 30–40 years posttreatment) that a plateau in risk occurs after a certain time among survivors exposed to cancer treatments associated with cardiovascular late effects.[13,19,48,80,81] Thus, life-long surveillance is recommended, even if the cost-effectiveness of certain screening strategies remains unclear.[26,82-84]
  • A growing body of literature is beginning to establish the yield from these screening studies, which will help inform future guidelines.[8,85-87] In these studies, for example, among adult-aged survivors of childhood cancer, evidence for cardiomyopathy on the basis of echocardiographic changes was found in approximately 6% of at-risk survivors. Overall, in a cohort of more than 1,000 survivors (median age, 32 years), nearly 60% of screened at-risk survivors had some clinically ascertained cardiac abnormality identified.[8]
  • Given the growing evidence that conventional cardiovascular conditions such as hypertension, dyslipidemia, and diabetes substantially increase the risk of more serious cardiovascular disease among survivors, clinicians should carefully consider baseline and follow-up screening and treatment of these comorbid conditions that impact cardiovascular health (refer to Table 2).[7,49,59,88,89]
  • There is also emerging evidence that adoption of healthier lifestyle factors may decrease future cardiovascular morbidity in at-risk survivors.[90] Thus, similar to the general population, survivors should be counseled about maintaining a healthy weight, participating in regular physical activity, adhering to a heart-healthy diet, and abstaining from smoking.
  • The COG has organized handouts on cardiovascular disease and related topics, including lifestyle choices written for a lay audience to facilitate counseling and education of survivors.

Predicting Cardiovascular Disease Risk

  • Attempts to develop more individualized risk prediction for cardiovascular disease may help refine surveillance and counseling in the future.
  • Several groups have collaborated to develop and validate individualized risk calculators for heart failure, ischemic heart disease, and stroke through age 50 years.[27,89,91]
  • Updated models based only on CCSS data have incorporated hypertension, dyslipidemia, and diabetes status across time to further refine prediction.[89]
  • An online risk calculator incorporating these models is available at: https://ccss.stjude.org/cvcalc.

Risk prediction for cardiovascular diseases

  1. Using data from four large, well-annotated childhood cancer survivor cohorts (CCSS, National Wilms Tumor Study Group, the Netherlands, and SJCRH), a heart failure risk calculator based on readily available demographic and treatment characteristics has been created and validated, which may provide more individualized clinical heart failure risk estimation for 5-year survivors of childhood cancer who have recently completed therapy, through age 40 years. Because of the young age of participants at the time of baseline prediction (5-year survival), this estimator is limited in that information on conventional cardiovascular conditions such as hypertension, dyslipidemia, or diabetes could not be incorporated.[27]
  2. In another collaborative study, data from the CCSS, Netherlands, and SJCRH were used to develop risk-prediction models for ischemic heart disease and stroke among 5-year survivors of childhood cancer through age 50 years. Risk scores derived from a standard prediction model that included sex, chemotherapy exposure, and radiation therapy exposure identified statistically distinct low-risk, moderate-risk, and high-risk groups. The cumulative incidences at age 50 years among CCSS low-risk groups were less than 5%, compared with approximately 20% for high-risk groups and only 1% for siblings.[91]
  3. Traditional cardiovascular risk factors remain important for predicting risk of cardiovascular disease among adult-aged survivors of childhood cancer, as demonstrated by a CCSS investigation that constructed prediction models accounting for cardiotoxic cancer treatment exposures, combined with information on traditional cardiovascular risk factors such as hypertension, dyslipidemia, and diabetes. Risk scores based on demographic, cancer treatment, hypertension, dyslipidemia, and diabetes information showed good performance (area under the receiver operating characteristic curve and concordance statistics ≥0.70) for predicting cardiovascular events in the models applied to the discovery and replication cohorts. The most influential exposures were anthracycline chemotherapy, radiation therapy, diabetes, and hypertension.[89]
Table 2. Cardiovascular Late Effectsa,b
Predisposing Therapy Potential Cardiovascular EffectsHealth Screening
aThe Children's Oncology Group (COG) guidelines also cover other conditions that may influence cardiovascular risk, such as obesity and diabetes mellitus/impaired glucose metabolism.
bAdapted from the Children's Oncology Group Long-Term Follow-Up Guidelines for Survivors of Childhood, Adolescent, and Young Adult Cancers.
Any anthracycline and/or any radiation to the heartCardiac toxicity (arrhythmia, cardiomyopathy/heart failure, pericardial disease, valve disease, ischemic heart disease)Yearly medical history and physical exam
Electrocardiogram at entry into long-term follow-up
Echocardiogram at entry into long-term follow-up, periodically repeat based on previous exposures and other risk factors
Radiation to the neck and base of skull (especially ≥40 Gy)Carotid and/or subclavian artery diseaseYearly medical history and physical exam; consider Doppler ultrasound 10 years after exposure
Radiation to the brain/cranium (especially ≥18 Gy)Cerebrovascular disease (cavernomas, moyamoya, occlusive cerebral vasculopathy, stroke)Yearly medical history and physical exam
Radiation to the abdomenDiabetesDiabetes screen every 2 years
Total-body irradiation (usually <14 Gy)Dyslipidemia; diabetesFasting lipid profile and diabetes screen every 2 years
Heavy metals (carboplatin, cisplatin), and ifosfamide exposure; radiation to the kidneys; hematopoietic cell transplantation; nephrectomyHypertension (as a consequence of renal toxicity)Yearly blood pressure; renal function laboratory studies at entry into long-term follow-up and repeat as clinically indicated
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  47. Murphy ES, Xie H, Merchant TE, et al.: Review of cranial radiotherapy-induced vasculopathy. J Neurooncol 122 (3): 421-9, 2015. [PUBMED Abstract]
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  49. De Bruin ML, Dorresteijn LD, van't Veer MB, et al.: Increased risk of stroke and transient ischemic attack in 5-year survivors of Hodgkin lymphoma. J Natl Cancer Inst 101 (13): 928-37, 2009. [PUBMED Abstract]
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  51. van Dijk IW, van der Pal HJ, van Os RM, et al.: Risk of Symptomatic Stroke After Radiation Therapy for Childhood Cancer: A Long-Term Follow-Up Cohort Analysis. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 96 (3): 597-605, 2016. [PUBMED Abstract]
  52. Mueller S, Sear K, Hills NK, et al.: Risk of first and recurrent stroke in childhood cancer survivors treated with cranial and cervical radiation therapy. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 86 (4): 643-8, 2013. [PUBMED Abstract]
  53. Fullerton HJ, Stratton K, Mueller S, et al.: Recurrent stroke in childhood cancer survivors. Neurology 85 (12): 1056-64, 2015. [PUBMED Abstract]
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  56. Bright CJ, Hawkins MM, Guha J, et al.: Risk of Cerebrovascular Events in 178 962 Five-Year Survivors of Cancer Diagnosed at 15 to 39 Years of Age: The TYACSS (Teenage and Young Adult Cancer Survivor Study). Circulation 135 (13): 1194-1210, 2017. [PUBMED Abstract]
  57. Walker AJ, Grainge MJ, Card TR, et al.: Venous thromboembolism in children with cancer - a population-based cohort study. Thromb Res 133 (3): 340-4, 2014. [PUBMED Abstract]
  58. Madenci AL, Weil BR, Liu Q, et al.: Long-Term Risk of Venous Thromboembolism in Survivors of Childhood Cancer: A Report From the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study. J Clin Oncol : JCO2018784595, 2018. [PUBMED Abstract]
  59. Mueller S, Fullerton HJ, Stratton K, et al.: Radiation, atherosclerotic risk factors, and stroke risk in survivors of pediatric cancer: a report from the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 86 (4): 649-55, 2013. [PUBMED Abstract]
  60. Chao C, Xu L, Bhatia S, et al.: Cardiovascular Disease Risk Profiles in Survivors of Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) Cancer: The Kaiser Permanente AYA Cancer Survivors Study. J Clin Oncol 34 (14): 1626-33, 2016. [PUBMED Abstract]
  61. Winther JF, Bhatia S, Cederkvist L, et al.: Risk of cardiovascular disease among Nordic childhood cancer survivors with diabetes mellitus: A report from adult life after childhood cancer in Scandinavia. Cancer 124 (22): 4393-4400, 2018. [PUBMED Abstract]
  62. Lipshultz SE, Lipsitz SR, Kutok JL, et al.: Impact of hemochromatosis gene mutations on cardiac status in doxorubicin-treated survivors of childhood high-risk leukemia. Cancer 119 (19): 3555-62, 2013. [PUBMED Abstract]
  63. Visscher H, Ross CJ, Rassekh SR, et al.: Validation of variants in SLC28A3 and UGT1A6 as genetic markers predictive of anthracycline-induced cardiotoxicity in children. Pediatr Blood Cancer 60 (8): 1375-81, 2013. [PUBMED Abstract]
  64. Wang X, Liu W, Sun CL, et al.: Hyaluronan synthase 3 variant and anthracycline-related cardiomyopathy: a report from the children's oncology group. J Clin Oncol 32 (7): 647-53, 2014. [PUBMED Abstract]
  65. Wang X, Sun CL, Quiñones-Lombraña A, et al.: CELF4 Variant and Anthracycline-Related Cardiomyopathy: A Children's Oncology Group Genome-Wide Association Study. J Clin Oncol 34 (8): 863-70, 2016. [PUBMED Abstract]
  66. Aminkeng F, Bhavsar AP, Visscher H, et al.: A coding variant in RARG confers susceptibility to anthracycline-induced cardiotoxicity in childhood cancer. Nat Genet 47 (9): 1079-84, 2015. [PUBMED Abstract]
  67. Visscher H, Rassekh SR, Sandor GS, et al.: Genetic variants in SLC22A17 and SLC22A7 are associated with anthracycline-induced cardiotoxicity in children. Pharmacogenomics 16 (10): 1065-76, 2015. [PUBMED Abstract]
  68. Davies SM: Getting to the heart of the matter. J Clin Oncol 30 (13): 1399-400, 2012. [PUBMED Abstract]
  69. Lewey J, Haythe J: Cardiomyopathy in pregnancy. Semin Perinatol 38 (5): 309-17, 2014. [PUBMED Abstract]
  70. Hines MR, Mulrooney DA, Hudson MM, et al.: Pregnancy-associated cardiomyopathy in survivors of childhood cancer. J Cancer Surviv 10 (1): 113-21, 2016. [PUBMED Abstract]
  71. Chait-Rubinek L, Mariani JA, Goroncy N, et al.: A Retrospective Evaluation of Risk of Peripartum Cardiac Dysfunction in Survivors of Childhood, Adolescent and Young Adult Malignancies. Cancers (Basel) 11 (8): , 2019. [PUBMED Abstract]
  72. Dietz AC, Seidel K, Leisenring WM, et al.: Solid organ transplantation after treatment for childhood cancer: a retrospective cohort analysis from the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study. Lancet Oncol 20 (10): 1420-1431, 2019. [PUBMED Abstract]
  73. Brouwer CA, Postma A, Hooimeijer HL, et al.: Endothelial damage in long-term survivors of childhood cancer. J Clin Oncol 31 (31): 3906-13, 2013. [PUBMED Abstract]
  74. Maraldo MV, Jørgensen M, Brodin NP, et al.: The impact of involved node, involved field and mantle field radiotherapy on estimated radiation doses and risk of late effects for pediatric patients with Hodgkin lymphoma. Pediatr Blood Cancer 61 (4): 717-22, 2014. [PUBMED Abstract]
  75. Landier W, Bhatia S, Eshelman DA, et al.: Development of risk-based guidelines for pediatric cancer survivors: the Children's Oncology Group Long-Term Follow-Up Guidelines from the Children's Oncology Group Late Effects Committee and Nursing Discipline. J Clin Oncol 22 (24): 4979-90, 2004. [PUBMED Abstract]
  76. Skinner R, Wallace WH, Levitt GA, et al.: Long-term follow-up of people who have survived cancer during childhood. Lancet Oncol 7 (6): 489-98, 2006. [PUBMED Abstract]
  77. Sieswerda E, Postma A, van Dalen EC, et al.: The Dutch Childhood Oncology Group guideline for follow-up of asymptomatic cardiac dysfunction in childhood cancer survivors. Ann Oncol 23 (8): 2191-8, 2012. [PUBMED Abstract]
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  79. Lenihan DJ, Oliva S, Chow EJ, et al.: Cardiac toxicity in cancer survivors. Cancer 119 (Suppl 11): 2131-42, 2013. [PUBMED Abstract]
  80. Tukenova M, Guibout C, Oberlin O, et al.: Role of cancer treatment in long-term overall and cardiovascular mortality after childhood cancer. J Clin Oncol 28 (8): 1308-15, 2010. [PUBMED Abstract]
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  82. Chen AB, Punglia RS, Kuntz KM, et al.: Cost effectiveness and screening interval of lipid screening in Hodgkin's lymphoma survivors. J Clin Oncol 27 (32): 5383-9, 2009. [PUBMED Abstract]
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  89. Chen Y, Chow EJ, Oeffinger KC, et al.: Traditional Cardiovascular Risk Factors and Individual Prediction of Cardiovascular Events in Childhood Cancer Survivors. J Natl Cancer Inst 112 (3): 256-265, 2020. [PUBMED Abstract]
  90. Scott JM, Li N, Liu Q, et al.: Association of Exercise With Mortality in Adult Survivors of Childhood Cancer. JAMA Oncol 4 (10): 1352-1358, 2018. [PUBMED Abstract]
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Late Effects of the Central Nervous System

Neurocognitive

Neurocognitive late effects are most commonly observed after treatment of malignancies that require central nervous system (CNS)–directed therapies. While considerable evidence has been published about this outcome, its quality is often limited by small sample size, cohort selection and participation bias, cross-sectional versus longitudinal evaluations, and variable time of assessment from treatment exposures. CNS-directed therapies include the following:

  • Cranial radiation therapy.
  • Systemic therapy with high-dose methotrexate or cytarabine.
  • Intrathecal chemotherapy.

Children with brain tumors or acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) are most likely to be affected. Risk factors for the development of neurocognitive late effects include the following:[1-5]

  • Female sex.
  • Younger age at the time of treatment.
  • Tumor location.
  • Treatment with cranial radiation therapy and/or chemotherapeutic agents (systemic or intrathecal).
  • Higher cranial radiation dose.
  • Time since treatment.

Cognitive phenotypes observed in childhood survivors of ALL and CNS tumors may differ from traditional developmental disorders. For example, the phenotype of attention problems in ALL and brain tumor survivors appears to differ from developmental attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in that few survivors demonstrate significant hyperactivity/impulsivity, but instead have associated difficulties with processing speed and executive function.[6,7]

In addition to the direct effects of neurotoxic therapies like cranial radiation, Childhood Cancer Survivor Study (CCSS) investigators observed that chronic health conditions resulting from non-neurotoxic treatment exposures (e.g., thoracic radiation) can adversely impact neurocognitive function presumably mediated by chronic cardiopulmonary and endocrine dysfunction.[8] In addition, some sequelae of neurotoxic therapy (e.g., severe hearing loss) have been associated with neurocognitive deficits independent of the neurotoxic treatment received.[9]

A related investigation from the CCSS evaluated longitudinal associations between physical activity and neurocognitive problems in adult survivors of childhood cancer.[10]

  • Survivors were less likely than their siblings to report consistent physical activity (28.1% vs. 33.6%).
  • Survivors who reported more consistent physical activity had fewer neurocognitive problems and larger improvements in cognitive concerns years after treatment.
  • Body mass index (BMI) and severe chronic health conditions partially mediated the physical activity–neurocognitive associations, but the mediation effects were small.

Neurocognitive outcomes in brain tumor survivors

Long-term cognitive effects caused by illness and associated treatments are well-established morbidities in survivors of childhood and adolescent brain tumors. Risk factors for adverse neurocognitive effects in this group include the following:

  • Cranial radiation therapy.
    • Cranial radiation therapy has been associated with the highest risk of long-term cognitive morbidity, particularly in younger children.[11]
    • There is an established dose-response relationship, with patients who receive higher-dose cranial radiation therapy consistently performing more poorly on intellectual measures.[12]
    • Radiation dose to specific regions of the brain, including the temporal lobes and hippocampi, have been shown to significantly impact longitudinal intelligence quotient (IQ) scores and academic achievement scores among children treated with craniospinal irradiation for medulloblastoma.[13]
  • Tumor site.[11,14]
  • Shunted hydrocephalus.[11,15,16]
  • Postsurgical cerebellar mutism.[17]
  • Auditory difficulties, including sensorineural hearing loss.[9,15,18]
  • History of stroke.[19]
  • Seizures.[14,20]

The negative impact of radiation treatment has been characterized by changes in IQ scores, which have been noted to drop about 2 to 5 years after diagnosis.[21-23]

  • The decline continues 5 to 10 years afterward, although less is known about potential stabilization or further decline of IQ scores several decades after diagnosis.[21-23]
  • The decline in IQ scores over time typically reflects the child’s failure to acquire new abilities or information at a rate similar to that of his or her peers, rather than a progressive loss of skills and knowledge.[12]
  • Affected children also may experience deficits in other cognitive areas, including academic domains (reading and math) and problems with attention, processing speed, memory, and visual or perceptual motor skills.[22,24,25]
  • Changes in cognitive functioning may be partially explained by radiation-induced reduction of normal-appearing white matter volume or integrity of white matter pathways, as evaluated through magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).[26,27]
    • Reduced white matter integrity has been directly linked to slowed cognitive processing speed in survivors of brain tumors,[28] while greater white matter volume has been associated with better working memory, particularly in females.[27]
    • Data emerging from contemporary protocols show that using lower doses of cranial radiation and more targeted treatment volumes appears to reduce the severity of neurocognitive effects of therapy.[14,16,29]

Evidence (predictors of cognitive decline among survivors of CNS tumors):

Longitudinal cohort studies have provided insight into the trajectory and predictors of cognitive decline among survivors of CNS tumors.

  1. St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital (SJCRH) studied 78 children younger than 20 years (mean, 9.7 years) diagnosed with a low-grade glioma.[30]
    • Cognitive decline after 54 Gy of conformal cranial radiation therapy was noted (refer to Figure 9).
    • Age at time of cranial irradiation was more important than was cranial radiation dose in predicting cognitive decline, with children younger than 5 years estimated to experience the greatest cognitive decline.

      EnlargeGraph shows modeled IQ scores after conformal radiation therapy, by age measured in years, and time measured in months, after the start of CRT for pediatric low-grade glioma.
      Figure 9. Modeled intelligence quotient (IQ) scores after conformal radiation therapy (CRT) by age for pediatric low-grade glioma. Age is measured in years, and time is measured in months after the start of CRT. Thomas E. Merchant, Heather M. Conklin, Shengjie Wu, Robert H. Lustig, and Xiaoping Xiong, Late Effects of Conformal Radiation Therapy for Pediatric Patients With Low-Grade Glioma: Prospective Evaluation of Cognitive, Endocrine, and Hearing Deficits, Journal of Clinical Oncology, volume 27, issue 22, pages 3691-3697. Reprinted with permission. © (2009) American Society of Clinical Oncology. All rights reserved.

  2. In a study of 51 children with low-grade gliomas and low-grade glioneural tumors diagnosed within the first year of life, the mean IQ score was 75.5; 75% of the children had IQ scores lower than 85.[31]
    • Predictors of low IQ included a supratentorial location of the primary tumor and treatment with more chemotherapy regimens but not radiation use.
    • The child’s ability to complete age-appropriate tasks was as affected as IQ scores.
  3. A study of 126 medulloblastoma survivors treated with 23.4 Gy or 36 Gy to 39.6 Gy of craniospinal radiation (with a conformal boost dose of 55.8 Gy to the primary tumor bed) assessed processing speed, attention, and memory performance.[32]
    • Processing speed scores declined significantly over time, while less decline was observed in attention and memory performance. Higher doses of radiation and younger age at diagnosis predicted slower processing speed over time.
    • Studies of working memory and academic achievement in patients enrolled on the same medulloblastoma trial (SJCRH SJMB03 [NCT00085202]) indicated that performance was largely within the age-expected range up to 5 years postdiagnosis,[33,34] although in both studies, posterior fossa syndrome, higher cranial radiation dose, and younger age at diagnosis predicted worse performance over time.
    • Serious hearing loss was associated with intellectual and academic decline over time.[34]
  4. A prospective study compared 36 pediatric patients with medulloblastoma who experienced posterior fossa syndrome with 36 patients with medulloblastoma who did not experience posterior fossa syndrome but were matched on treatment and age at diagnosis.[35]
    • The posterior fossa syndrome group demonstrated lower mean scores at 1, 3, and 5 years postdiagnosis on general intellectual ability, processing speed, working memory, and spatial relations compared with the non–posterior fossa syndrome group.
    • The group who experienced posterior fossa syndrome showed little recovery over time and further decline over time in some domains (attention and working memory), compared with the non–posterior fossa syndrome group.
  5. Canadian investigators evaluated the impact of radiation (dose and boost volume) and neurologic complications on patterns of intellectual functioning in a cohort of 113 medulloblastoma survivors (mean age at diagnosis, 7.5 years; mean time from diagnosis to last assessment, 6 years).[36]
    • Survivors treated with reduced-dose craniospinal radiation therapy plus tumor bed boost showed stable intellectual functioning.
    • Neurological complications, such as hydrocephalus requiring cerebrospinal fluid diversion and mutism, and treatment with higher doses and larger boost volumes of radiation resulted in intellectual declines with distinctive trajectories.
  6. Studies are beginning to examine cognitive outcomes in histologically distinct subtypes of brain tumors.
    • Data from a sample of 121 medulloblastoma patients demonstrated variation in cognitive outcomes by four distinct molecular subgroups and differences in patterns of change over time.[37]
    • Future research is required to establish if neurocognitive outcomes vary across biologically distinct subtypes of childhood brain tumors.

Evidence (predictors of cognitive decline among long-term survivors of CNS tumors):

Although adverse neurocognitive outcomes observed 5 to 10 years after treatment are presumed to be pervasive, and potentially worsen over time, few empirical data are available regarding the neurocognitive functioning in very long-term survivors of CNS tumors.

  1. Among adult survivors participating in the CCSS, CNS tumor survivors (n = 802) self-reported significantly more problems with attention/processing speed, memory, emotional control, and organization than did survivors of non-CNS malignancies (n = 5,937) and sibling controls (n = 382).[3]
  2. Another CCSS study evaluating patterns of late mortality and morbidity in 2,821 adult survivors of CNS tumors reported impairment on measures of attention/processing speed (42.9%–73.3%) and memory (14.3%–37.4%), with differences observed by diagnosis and cranial radiation dose.[38]
  3. A study of 224 adult survivors of pediatric brain tumors participating in the St. Jude Lifetime Cohort Study revealed that 20% to 30% of the survivors demonstrated severe neurocognitive impairment (defined as at least two standard deviations below normative mean) on clinical assessments of intelligence, memory, and executive function (e.g., planning, organization, and flexibility).[14]
    • Among adults in the general population, the expected impairment rate at this threshold is 2%.
    • Survivors who received whole-brain cranial irradiation were 1.5 to 3 times more likely to have severe neurocognitive impairment than were survivors who did not receive any cranial irradiation.
    • Hydrocephalus with shunt placement and seizures were also associated with increased risk of impairment.
  4. In the CCSS, investigators compared long-term neuropsychological and socioeconomic status outcomes of 181 adult survivors of pediatric low-grade gliomas with the outcomes of an age-matched and sex-matched sibling comparison group.[39]
    • Survivors who were treated with surgery and radiation therapy (median age at diagnosis, 7 years; median age at assessment, 41 years) scored lower on estimated IQ than did survivors who were treated with surgery only, who scored lower than siblings (surgery and radiation therapy, 93.9; surgery only, 101.2; siblings, 108.5; all P values < .0001).
    • Younger age at diagnosis was predictive of low scores for all neuropsychological outcomes except for attention/processing speed.
    • Survivors who were treated with surgery and radiation therapy had more-than-twofold–lower occupation scores, income, and education than did survivors who were treated with surgery only.
  5. In a retrospective review of 528 brain tumor survivors diagnosed between 2000 and 2015, the prevalence of a clinical diagnosis of ADHD was 13.1%.[40]
    • Of the survivors, 12.1% used medications for ADHD, and 19.9% of survivors had symptoms of ADHD without a clinical diagnosis.
    • ADHD diagnosis was associated with younger age at tumor diagnosis and supratentorial tumor location, but not with sex, tumor type, or treatment type.

The neurocognitive consequences of CNS disease and treatment may have a considerable impact on functional outcomes for brain tumor survivors.

  • In childhood and adolescence, neurocognitive deficits have been associated with poor social adjustment, including problems with peer relations, social withdrawal, and reduced social skills.[41,42]
  • CNS tumor survivors are more likely to need special education services than are survivors of other malignancies.[43]
  • Adult CNS tumor survivors are less likely to live independently, marry, and graduate from college than are survivors of other malignancies and siblings.[43-45]
Cognitive outcomes after proton radiation therapy

Data are emerging regarding cognitive outcomes after proton radiation to the CNS;[46-50] however, these studies have been limited by retrospective analysis of cognitive outcomes among relatively small clinically heterogenous pediatric brain tumor cohorts and the use of historically treated photon patients or population standards as comparison groups.

  • In studies largely describing IQ changes during early follow-up (<5 years from radiation), results demonstrate lack of difference in slopes of IQ change among photon-treated and proton-treated patients [46] and significant declines in cognitive processing speed among patients treated with proton radiation.[47]
  • One study compared the intellectual trajectories between pediatric patients with medulloblastoma who were treated with proton and photon radiation therapy (4.3-year mean follow-up after median 23.4-Gy craniospinal irradiation dose). Notably, boost dose and margins were significantly different between the two groups.[49]
    • Children treated with proton radiation therapy exhibited superior long-term outcomes in global IQ, perceptual reasoning, and working memory compared with children who were treated with photon radiation therapy.
    • The photon radiation therapy group exhibited a significant decline in global IQ, working memory, and processing speed.
    • The proton radiation therapy group exhibited stable scores over time in all domains, with the exception of processing speed.

Considering the relatively brief follow-up time from radiation, longitudinal follow-up is important to determine whether proton radiation provides a clinically meaningful benefit in sparing cognitive function compared with photon radiation. In addition, more targeted radiation treatment volumes with photons may diminish potential differences.

Neurocognitive outcomes in acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) survivors

To minimize the risk of late cognitive sequelae, contemporary therapy for ALL uses a risk-stratified approach that reserves cranial irradiation for children who are considered at high risk of CNS relapse.

Although low-risk, standard-risk, and most high-risk patients are treated with chemotherapy-only protocols, early reports of neurocognitive late effects for ALL patients were based on heterogeneously treated groups of survivors who received combinations (simultaneously or sequentially) of intrathecal chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and high-dose chemotherapy, making it difficult to differentiate the impact of the individual treatment components. However, outcome data are increasingly available regarding the risk of neurocognitive late effects in survivors of childhood ALL treated with chemotherapy only.

ALL and cranial radiation

In survivors of ALL, cranial radiation therapy may result in clinical and radiographic neurologic late sequelae, including the following:

  • Clinical leukoencephalopathy. Clinical leukoencephalopathy characterized by spasticity, ataxia, dysarthria, dysphagia, hemiparesis, and seizures is uncommon after contemporary ALL therapy. In contrast, neuroimaging frequently demonstrates white matter abnormalities among survivors treated with cranial irradiation and/or high-dose methotrexate.
    • Radiographic leukoencephalopathy has been reported in up to 80% of children on some treatment regimens.
    • Higher doses and more courses of intravenous methotrexate have been reported to increase risk of leukoencephalopathy.[51]
    • In many patients, white matter anomalies are transient and decrease in prevalence, extent, and intensity with longer elapsed time from completion of therapy.[51]
    • Leukoencephalopathy results in smaller white matter volumes that have been correlated with cognitive deficits.[51]
    • Although these abnormalities are mild among the irradiated patients (overall IQ fall of approximately 10 points), those who have received higher doses at a young age may have significant learning difficulties.[52,53]
  • Neuropsychological deficits. Deficits in neuropsychological functions such as visual-motor integration, processing speed, attention, and short-term memory are reported in children treated with 18 Gy to 24 Gy.[52,54,55]
    • Females and children treated at a younger age are more vulnerable to the adverse impact of cranial radiation on the developing brain.[56]
    • The decline in intellectual functioning appears to be progressive, showing more impairment of cognitive function with increasing time since radiation therapy.[56,57]
    • Limited studies suggest that long-term survivors of childhood ALL treated with cranial irradiation are at risk of progressive decline consistent with early-onset mild cognitive impairment; this risk is most prominent among those treated with cranial radiation doses of 24 Gy.[58,59]
ALL and chemotherapy-only CNS therapy

Because of its penetrance into the CNS, systemic methotrexate has been used in a variety of low-dose and high-dose regimens for leukemia CNS prophylaxis.

  • Systemic methotrexate in high doses with or without radiation therapy can lead to an infrequent but well-described leukoencephalopathy, which has been linked to neurocognitive impairment.[51]
  • When neurocognitive outcomes after radiation therapy and chemotherapy-only regimens are directly compared, the evidence suggests a better outcome for those treated with chemotherapy alone, although some studies show no significant difference.[60,61]
  • In a longitudinal analysis of 210 childhood ALL survivors, the development of acute leukoencephalopathy during chemotherapy-only CNS therapy predicted higher risks of developing long-term neurobehavioral problems (e.g., deficits in organization and task initiation [components of executive function]) and reduced white matter integrity in frontal brain regions.[62]
  • Compared with cranial irradiation, chemotherapy-only CNS-directed treatment produces neurocognitive deficits involving processes of attention, speed of information processing, memory, verbal comprehension, visual-spatial skills, visual-motor functioning, and executive functioning; global intellectual function is typically preserved.[54,60,63-65]
  • Few longitudinal studies evaluating long-term neurocognitive outcome report adequate data for a decline in global IQ after treatment with chemotherapy alone.[63]
  • The academic achievement of ALL survivors in the long term seems to be generally average for reading and spelling, with deficits mainly affecting arithmetic performance.[60,66]
  • Risk factors for poor neurocognitive outcome after chemotherapy-only CNS-directed treatment are younger age and female sex.[65,67]
  • Reduced cognitive status has been observed in association with reduced integrity in neuroanatomical regions essential in memory formation (e.g., reduced hippocampal volume with increased activation and thinner parietal cortices).[62]
  • The long-term impact of these prevalent neurocognitive and neuroimaging abnormalities on functional status in aging adults treated for childhood ALL, particularly those treated with contemporary approaches using chemotherapy alone, remains an active area of research.

Evidence (neurocognitive functioning in large pediatric cancer survivor cohorts):

  1. The CCSS examined parent-reported cognitive, behavior, and learning problems from 1,560 adolescent survivors of childhood ALL who were treated with chemotherapy alone between 1970 and 1999.[68]
    • Survivors treated with cranial irradiation had significantly higher frequency of problems in anxiety-depression, inattention-hyperactivity, and social withdrawal than did patients who were not treated with cranial irradiation.
    • Compared with siblings, survivors treated with chemotherapy only were more likely to demonstrate headstrong behavior (19% of survivors vs. 14% of siblings, P = .010), inattention-hyperactivity (19% vs. 14%, P < .0001), social withdrawal (18% vs. 12%, P = .002), and had higher rates of learning problems (28% vs. 14%, P < .0001).
    • In multivariable models among survivors, increased cumulative dose of intravenous methotrexate (i.e., >4.3 g/m2) conferred increased risk of inattention-hyperactivity (relative risk [RR], 1.53).
    • Adolescent survivors with cognitive or behavior problems and those with learning problems were less likely to graduate from college as young adults than adolescent survivors without cognitive or behavior problems.
    • Inattention and hyperactivity problems were associated with the highest risk of special education placement during adolescence. Participation in special education during adolescence did not improve adult educational attainment.
  2. In the SJCRH Total XV (NCT00137111) trial, which omitted prophylactic cranial irradiation, comprehensive cognitive testing of 243 participants at week 120 revealed the following:[69]
    • A higher risk of below-average performance on a measure of sustained attention but not on measures of intellectual functioning, academic skills, or memory.
    • The risk of cognitive deficits correlated with treatment intensity but not with age at diagnosis or sex.
    • Prolonged follow-up (average, 7.7 years from diagnosis) of this cohort demonstrated that intelligence was within normal limits compared with population expectations, but measures of executive function, processing speed, and memory were less than population means.
    • Higher plasma methotrexate was associated with executive dysfunction, thicker cerebral cortex, and higher activity in frontal brain regions on functional MRI.
  3. In a large prospective study of neurocognitive outcomes in children with newly diagnosed ALL, 555 children were randomly assigned to receive CNS-directed therapy according to risk group.[70]
    1. The low-risk group was randomly assigned to receive either intrathecal methotrexate or high-dose methotrexate.
    2. The high-risk group was randomly assigned to receive either high-dose methotrexate or 24 Gy of cranial radiation therapy.
    • A significant reduction in IQ scores (4–7 points) was observed in all patient groups when compared with controls, regardless of the CNS treatment delivered.
    • Children younger than 5 years at diagnosis were more likely to have IQs below 80 at 3 years posttherapy than were children older than 5 years at diagnosis, irrespective of treatment allocation, suggesting that younger children are more vulnerable to treatment-related neurologic toxic effects.
  4. Persistent cognitive deficits and progressive intellectual decline have been observed in cohorts of adults treated for ALL during childhood and associated with reduced educational attainment and unemployment.[53,56,59] The results of a study of more than 500 adult survivors of childhood ALL (average, 26 years postdiagnosis) showed the following:[53]
    • Survivors demonstrated increased rates of impairment across all neurocognitive domains (ranging from 28.6%–58.9% for each domain).
    • Rate of severe impairment increased as a function of cranial radiation dose, but was common among survivors treated with lower doses of cranial irradiation and chemotherapy only.
    • Impairment in executive function skills increased with time since diagnosis in a cranial radiation dose-dependent manner; impairment in intellect, academics, and memory progressively increased with younger age at treatment in a cranial radiation dose-dependent manner; and neurocognitive impairment was related to functional outcomes as adults, including reduced likelihood of college graduation and full-time employment.
    • Continued monitoring by health professionals is needed to identify neurocognitive problems that may emerge over time.
ALL and steroid therapy

The type of steroid used for ALL systemic treatment may affect cognitive functioning.

  • In a study that involved long-term neurocognitive testing (mean follow-up, 9.8 years) of 92 children with a history of standard-risk ALL who had received either dexamethasone or prednisone during treatment, no meaningful differences in mean neurocognitive and academic performance scores were observed.[71]
  • In contrast, in a study of 567 adult survivors of childhood leukemia (mean age, 33 years; mean time since diagnosis, 26 years), dexamethasone exposure was associated with increased risk of impairment in attention (RR, 2.12; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.11–4.03) and executive function (RR, 2.42; 95% CI, 1.20–4.91), independent of methotrexate exposure. Intrathecal hydrocortisone also increased risk of attention problems (RR, 1.24; 95% CI, 1.05–1.46).[53]

Other cancers

Neurocognitive abnormalities have been reported in other groups of cancer survivors. In a study of adult survivors of childhood non-CNS cancers (including ALL, n = 5,937), 13% to 21% of survivors reported impairment in task efficiency, organization, memory, or emotional regulation.[55]

  • This rate of impairment was approximately 50% higher than that reported in the sibling comparison group.
  • Factors such as diagnosis before age 6 years, female sex, cranial radiation therapy, and hearing impediment were associated with impairment.

Emerging data suggest that the development of chronic health conditions in adulthood may contribute to cognitive deficits in long-term survivors of non-CNS cancers.

Neurocognitive abnormalities have been reported for the following cancers:

  • Osteosarcoma. In a study evaluating neurocognitive function among 80 long-term survivors of osteosarcoma (mean time since diagnosis, 24.7 years), survivors demonstrated lower mean scores in reading skills, attention, memory, and processing speed than did community controls.[72]
    • The presence of cardiac, pulmonary, and endocrine conditions were significantly associated with worse performance on measures of memory and processing speed.[72]
  • Soft tissue sarcoma. St. Jude Lifetime Cohort investigators evaluated neurocognitive function and health status through objective clinical assessments in 150 survivors of childhood soft tissue sarcoma (median age, 33 years; median time from diagnosis, 24 years).[73]
    • Compared with community and population controls, survivors demonstrated lower measures of verbal reasoning, mathematics, and long-term memory.
    • Cumulative anthracycline exposure (per 100 mg/m2) was found to be associated with poorer verbal reasoning, reading, and patient-reported vitality.
    • Neurologic and neurosensory chronic conditions were associated with poorer mathematics scores and hearing impairment.
    • Better cognitive performance was associated with higher social attainment.
  • Retinoblastoma. Early studies of intellectual functioning in survivors of retinoblastoma suggested above average intelligence among bilateral survivors compared with unaffected siblings and the general population, especially those who were blind as a result of their disease.[74-76]

    Later studies have yielded mixed results, with conflicting findings, in part, resulting from the low test-retest reliability of measures used to assess cognitive outcomes at a very young age, as well as temporal differences in treatment exposures.

    • Serial assessment of cognitive and adaptive functioning in a group of survivors younger than 6 years revealed declines in developmental functioning over time, with the most pronounced declines observed in patients with 13q deletions.[77]
    • In contrast, a study of long-term adult survivors, who were on average 33 years postdiagnosis, demonstrated largely average cognitive functioning across domains of intelligence, memory, attention, and executive function.[78]
  • Lymphoma. Survivors of lymphoma have not historically been considered at risk of developing neurocognitive late effects.
    • However, one report observed that more than two-thirds of survivors of childhood non-Hodgkin lymphoma experienced at least mild neurocognitive impairment, including severe deficits in executive function (13%), attention (9%), and memory (4%).[79]
    • Similarly, in a study of 62 adult survivors of childhood Hodgkin lymphoma, survivors demonstrated worse performance on measures of sustained attention, short- and long-term memory, and cognitive fluency when compared with national normative data.[80] Importantly, measures of cardiac and pulmonary function were also associated with neurocognitive impairment in this group of survivors.

Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT)

Cognitive and academic consequences of HSCT in children have also been evaluated and include, but are not limited to, the following:

  1. In a report from SJCRH in which 268 patients were treated with HSCT, minimal risk of late cognitive and academic sequelae was observed.[81]
    • Subgroups of patients were at relatively higher risk, including patients who underwent unrelated donor transplantation, received total-body irradiation, and developed graft-versus-host disease (GVHD).
    • These differences were small relative to differences in premorbid functioning, particularly those associated with socioeconomic status.
  2. In a series of 38 patients who underwent HSCT and received intrathecal chemotherapy, significant declines in visual motor skills and memory scores were noted within the first year posttransplant.[82]
    • By 3 years posttransplant, there was an improvement in visual motor development scores and memory scores, but new deficits were evident in long-term memory scores.
    • By 5 years posttransplant, there were progressive declines in verbal skills and performance skills, and new deficits were seen in long-term verbal memory scores.
    • The greatest decline in neurocognitive function occurred in patients who received cranial irradiation, either as part of their initial therapy or as part of their HSCT conditioning.

Neurologic Sequelae

Risk of neurologic complications may be predisposed by the following:

  • Tumor location.
  • Neurosurgery.
  • Cranial radiation therapy.
  • Specific neurotoxic chemotherapeutic agents.

In children with CNS tumors, mass effect, tumor infiltration, and increased intracranial pressure may result in motor or sensory deficits, cerebellar dysfunction, and secondary effects such as seizures and cerebrovascular complications.[83]

Numerous reports describe abnormalities of CNS integrity and function, but such studies are typically limited by small sample size, cohort selection and participation bias, cross-sectional ascertainment of outcomes, and variable time of assessment from treatment exposures. In contrast, relatively few studies comprehensively or systematically ascertain outcomes related to peripheral nervous system function.

CNS tumor survivors remain at higher risk of new-onset adverse neurologic events across their lifetimes than siblings. No plateau has been reached for new adverse sequelae, even 30 years from diagnosis, according to a longitudinal study of 1,876 5-year survivors of CNS tumors from the CCSS. The median time from diagnosis was 23 years, and the median age of the patients studied was 30.3 years.[84]

  • Cranial radiation, stroke, tumor recurrence, and development of meningioma were independently associated with late-onset neurologic sequelae (seizures, focal neurologic dysfunction, and neurosensory abnormalities).
  • This finding supports the need to monitor these patients carefully with continued neurologic follow-up within or in close association with a multidisciplinary cancer survivor clinic.

Neurologic complications that may occur in survivors of childhood cancer include the following:

Seizures

The development of seizures may occur secondary to tumor mass effect within the CNS and/or as a result of neurotoxic CNS-directed therapies.

  • In 1,876 5-year survivors of CNS tumors from the CCSS, the incidence of seizures increased from 27% in survivors 5 years from diagnosis to 41% in survivors 30 years from diagnosis.[84]
    • Late-onset seizures were associated with frontal lobe radiation of 50 Gy (hazard ratio [HR], 1.8) and temporal lobe radiation in a dose-dependent fashion (HR, 1.9 for 1–49 Gy; HR, 2.2 for >50 Gy).
    • Other risk factors associated with late-onset seizures included recurrence (HR, 2.3), development of meningioma (HR, 2.6), and history of stroke (HR, 2.0).
    • The risk of seizures was elevated for survivors compared with siblings (HR, 12.7).
  • Among survivors of childhood leukemia in the CCSS (N = 4,151; 64.5% treated with cranial irradiation), 6.1% reported the development of a seizure disorder, and seizures occurred more than 5 years after diagnosis in 51% of these patients.[85]

Leukoencephalopathy

  • Clinical or radiographic leukoencephalopathy has been reported after cranial irradiation and high-dose systemic methotrexate administration.[59,86]
    • Younger patients and those treated with cranial radiation doses higher than 24 Gy are more vulnerable to reduced white matter volumes associated with leukoencephalopathy.
    • White matter changes may be accompanied by other neuroimaging abnormalities, including dystrophic calcifications, cerebral lacunae, and cerebral atrophy.

Peripheral neuropathy

Vinca alkaloid agents (vincristine and vinblastine) and cisplatin may cause peripheral neuropathy.[87-89]

  • Peripheral neuropathy presents during treatment and appears to improve or clinically resolve after completion of therapy.[87]
  • Higher cumulative doses of vincristine and/or intrathecal methotrexate have been linked to neuromuscular impairments in long-term survivors of childhood ALL, which suggests that persistent effects of these agents may affect functional status in aging survivors.[87]
  • St. Jude Lifetime Cohort investigators observed associations between peripheral neuropathy and impairment in performance measures of movement (mobility and walking endurance) and quality of life (physical functioning, role physical, and general health) among survivors of childhood ALL.
  • Static-standing balance impairment (a predictor of falling within the next 90 days) was more common in survivors compared with controls but was not associated with peripheral neuropathy.[90]
  • Among adult survivors of extracranial solid tumors of childhood (median time from diagnosis, 25 years), standardized assessment of neuromuscular function disclosed motor impairment in association with vincristine exposure and sensory impairment in association with cisplatin exposure.[88]
    • Survivors with sensory impairment demonstrated a higher prevalence of functional performance limitations related to poor endurance and mobility restrictions.

These studies underscore the importance of assessment and referral to rehabilitative services to optimize functional outcomes among long-term survivors.

Stroke

  • Childhood CNS tumor survivors have a 43-fold elevated risk of stroke compared with siblings.[38,91]
    • Cranial radiation therapy (dose dependent), baseline atherosclerosis, hypertension, and African American ethnicity are identified risk factors.[92-94] (Refer to the Cerebrovascular disease section of this summary for information on stroke.)

Hypersomnia (daytime sleepiness) or narcolepsy

  • In a retrospective review of brain tumor patients treated at SJCRH, investigators identified 39 of 2,336 patients who were diagnosed with hypersomnia/narcolepsy, for a prevalence rate of 1,670 cases per 100,000, which is much higher than a prevalence rate of 20 to 50 cases per 100,000 reported in the general population.[95]
    • This may be an underestimate in childhood brain tumor survivors because many patients with mild-to-moderate symptoms, such as fatigue and sleep disturbances, may not be recognized or referred to a sleep specialist.
    • Hypersomnia/narcolepsy was diagnosed at a median of 6 years (range, 0.4–13.2 years) from tumor diagnosis and 4.7 years (range, 1.5–10.4 years) from cranial radiation.
    • Midline tumor location and antiepilepsy drug use correlated with hypersomnia/narcolepsy, while radiation dose higher than 30 Gy trended toward significance.
    • Posterior fossa tumor location was associated with a reduced risk of hypersomnia.
    • Treatment of hypersomnia/narcolepsy should be individualized and pharmacologic intervention with stimulants may be beneficial.
  • In a baseline evaluation of 82 childhood CNS tumor survivors (median age, 13.8 years) participating in a randomized controlled trial of neurofeedback, 48% of survivors endorsed sleep problems and scored significantly worse than the norm on the Sleep Disturbance Scale for Children in the subscales for initiating and maintaining sleep, excessive somnolence, and total scale.[96]
    • Emotional problems and/or hyperactivity/inattention were independent potential risk factors for sleep problems. Sleep problems were also associated with worse parent-reported executive functioning.

Other neurologic sequelae

  • In a report from the CCSS that compared self-reported neurologic late effects among 4,151 adult survivors of childhood ALL with siblings, survivors were at elevated risk for late-onset coordination problems, motor problems, seizures, and headaches.[85]
    • The overall cumulative incidence was 44% at 20 years. Serious headaches were most common, with a cumulative incidence of 25.8% at 20 years, followed by focal neurologic dysfunction (21.2%) and seizures (7%).
    • Children who were treated with regimens that included cranial irradiation for ALL and those who suffered relapse were at increased risk for late-onset neurologic sequelae.
  • In a cross-sectional study that evaluated neurologic morbidity and quality of life in 162 survivors of childhood ALL (median age at evaluation, 15.7 years; median time from completion of therapy, 7.4 years) in concert with a clinical neurologic exam, neurologic symptoms were present in 83% of survivors, but symptom-related morbidity was low and quality of life was high in most survivors.[97]
    • The most commonly reported symptoms included neuropathy (63%), headache (46.9%), dizziness (33.3%), and back pain (22.8%).
    • Female sex, ten doses or more of intrathecal chemotherapy, cranial irradiation, CNS leukemia at diagnosis, and history of ALL relapse were associated with neurologic morbidity.
  • Neuroimaging studies of irradiated and nonirradiated ALL survivors demonstrate a variety of CNS abnormalities, including leukoencephalopathy, cerebral lacunes, cerebral atrophy, and dystrophic calcifications (mineralizing microangiopathy).[51,59,86,98]
    • Among these, abnormalities of cerebral white matter integrity and volume have been correlated with neurocognitive outcomes.
  • Cavernomas have also been observed in ALL survivors treated with cranial irradiation. They have been speculated to result from angiogenic processes as opposed to tumorigenesis.[99]
  • CCSS investigators evaluated treatment-related neurologic sequelae in survivors of childhood CNS tumors.[84]
    • In 1,876 5-year survivors of CNS tumors from the CCSS, the cumulative incidence of headaches increased from 38% at 5 years to 53% at 30 years from diagnosis.
    • Coordination problems increased from 21% at 5 years to 53% at 30 years from diagnosis, and motor impairment increased from 21% to 35% during this time period.
    • Increased risk of motor impairment was associated with tumor recurrence (HR, 2.6), development of a meningioma (HR, 2.3), and stroke (HR, 14.9).
    • The cumulative incidence of hearing loss increased from 9% at 5 years to 23% at 30 years, cumulative incidence of tinnitus increased from 8% at 5 years to 21% at 30 years, and cumulative incidence of vertigo increased from 9% at 5 years to 17% at 30 years.
    • Risks of motor impairment (HR, 7.6) and hearing loss (HR, 18.4) were elevated compared with siblings.

Table 3 summarizes CNS late effects and the related health screenings.

Table 3. Central Nervous System Late Effectsa
Predisposing TherapyNeurologic EffectsHealth Screening
IQ = intelligence quotient; IT = intrathecal; IV = intravenous.
aAdapted from the Children's Oncology Group Long-Term Follow-Up Guidelines for Survivors of Childhood, Adolescent, and Young Adult Cancers.
Platinum agents (carboplatin, cisplatin) Peripheral sensory neuropathyNeurologic exam
Plant alkaloid agents (vinblastine, vincristine) Peripheral sensory or motor neuropathy (areflexia, weakness, foot drop, paresthesias)Neurologic exam
Methotrexate (high dose IV or IT); cytarabine (high dose IV or IT); radiation exposing the brain Clinical leukoencephalopathy (spasticity, ataxia, dysarthria, dysphagia, hemiparesis, seizures); headaches; seizures; sensory deficitsHistory: cognitive, motor, and/or sensory deficits, seizures
Neurologic exam
Radiation exposing cerebrovascular structures Cerebrovascular complications (stroke, Moyamoya disease, occlusive cerebral vasculopathy)History: transient/permanent neurological events
Blood pressure
Neurologic exam
Neurosurgery–brain Motor and/or sensory deficits (paralysis, movement disorders, ataxia, eye problems [ocular nerve palsy, gaze paresis, nystagmus, papilledema, optic atrophy]); seizuresNeurologic exam
Neurology evaluation
Neurosurgery–brain Hydrocephalus; shunt malfunction Abdominal x-ray
Neurosurgery evaluation
Neurosurgery–spine Neurogenic bladder; urinary incontinence History: hematuria, urinary urgency/frequency, urinary incontinence/retention, dysuria, nocturia, abnormal urinary stream
Neurosurgery–spine Neurogenic bowel; fecal incontinenceHistory: chronic constipation, fecal soiling
Rectal exam
Predisposing TherapyNeuropsychological EffectsHealth Screening
Methotrexate (high-dose IV or IT); cytarabine (high-dose IV or IT); radiation exposing the brain; neurosurgery–brain Neurocognitive deficits (executive function, memory, attention, processing speed, etc.); learning deficits; diminished IQ; behavioral change Assessment of educational and vocational progress
Formal neuropsychological evaluation

Psychosocial

Many childhood cancer survivors report reduced quality of life or other adverse psychosocial outcomes. The diagnosis of childhood cancer may also affect psychosocial outcomes and the expected attainment of functional and social independence in adulthood. Several investigations have demonstrated that survivors of pediatric CNS tumors are particularly vulnerable.[100,101]

Evidence for adverse psychosocial adjustment after childhood cancer has been derived from a number of sources, ranging from patient-reported or proxy-reported outcomes to data from population-based registries. The former may be limited by small sample size, cohort selection and participation bias, and variable methods and venues (clinical vs. distance-based survey) of assessments. The latter is often not well correlated with clinical and treatment characteristics that permit the identification of survivors at high risk of psychosocial deficits.

Achievement of social milestones

Survivors with neurocognitive deficits are particularly vulnerable to deficits in achievement of expected social outcomes during adulthood.

  • In a population-based study of adult survivors of CNS tumors diagnosed in childhood or adolescence, survivors had significantly poorer self-perception and self-esteem than did individuals in the general population. Female sex, persistent visible physical sequelae, specific tumor type, and treatment with cranial radiation therapy predicted poor self-perception outcomes.[102]
  • In a series of CNS malignancy survivors (n = 802) reported from the CCSS, adverse outcome on multiple indicators of successful adult adjustment (educational achievement, income, employment, and marital status) were most prevalent among survivors who reported neurocognitive dysfunction.[3]
  • Collectively, studies evaluating psychosocial outcomes among CNS tumor survivors indicate deficits in social competence that worsen over time.[103] This includes problems with peer rejection and isolation in childhood/adolescence, and the inability to develop friendships and romantic relationships as adults.
  • In a CCSS study that evaluated predictors of independent living status across diagnostic groups, adult survivors of childhood cancer with neurocognitive, psychological, or physical late effects were less likely to live independently as adults than were siblings in the comparison group.[44]
  • In a St. Jude Lifetime Cohort study of 224 survivors of CNS tumors (median current age, 26 years; median time from diagnosis, 18 years), neurocognitive impairment was significantly associated with lower educational attainment, unemployment, and dependent living.[14]
  • In a series of 1,560 adolescent survivors of childhood ALL treated with chemotherapy alone, the CCSS identified a significant proportion of survivors who still experienced problems with headstrong behavior, inattention-hyperactivity, and social withdrawal, which were associated with an increased risk of special education placement and predicted reduced adult educational attainment.[68]

Psychological distress and suicidality

Childhood cancer survivors are also at risk of developing symptoms of psychological distress and suicidality.

  • In a longitudinal study of more than 4,500 survivors, subgroups of survivors were found to be at risk of developing persistent and increasing symptoms of anxiety and depression during a 16-year period. Survivors who reported pain and worsening health status were at the greatest risk of developing symptoms of anxiety, depression, and somatization over time.[104]
  • In a CCSS study that evaluated the prevalence of recurrent suicidal ideation among 9,128 adult long-term survivors of childhood cancer, survivors were more likely to report late suicidal ideation (odds ratio [OR], 1.9; 95% CI, 1.5–2.5) and recurrent suicidal ideation (OR, 2.6; 95% CI, 1.8–3.8) compared with siblings. History of seizure was associated with a twofold increased likelihood of suicide ideation in survivors.[105]
  • In a population-based study that evaluated suicide among adults treated for cancer before age 25 years, the absolute risk of suicide was low (24 cases among 3,375 deaths), but the HR of suicide was increased among individuals treated for cancer in childhood (0–14 years; HR, 2.5; 95% CI, 1.7–3.8) and in adolescence and young adulthood (15–24 years; HR, 2.3; 95% CI, 1.2–4.6).[106]

The presence of chronic health conditions can also impact aspects of psychological health.

  • In a study that evaluated psychological outcomes among long-term survivors treated with HSCT, 22% of survivors and 8% of sibling controls reported adverse outcomes. Somatic distress was the most prevalent condition and affected 15% of HSCT survivors, representing a threefold higher risk compared with siblings. HSCT survivors with severe or life-threatening health conditions and active chronic GVHD had a twofold increased risk of somatic distress.[107]
  • A report from the CCSS revealed that the presence of chronic pulmonary, endocrine, and cardiac conditions was associated with increased risk of psychological distress symptoms in a sample of 5,021 adult survivors of childhood cancer.[108]
  • In a CCSS investigation that evaluated long-term psychological and educational outcomes among survivors of neuroblastoma, survivors demonstrated elevated risks of psychological impairment, which was associated with the use of special education services and lower educational attainment. The presence of two or more chronic health conditions, but not common treatment exposures, predicted psychological impairment. Specifically, pulmonary disease predicted impairment in all five psychological domains, whereas endocrine disease and peripheral neuropathy each predicted impairment in three domains.[109]

Incorporation of psychological screening into clinical visits for childhood cancer survivors may be valuable; however, limiting such evaluations to those returning to long-term follow-up clinics may result in a biased subsample of survivors with more difficulties, and precise prevalence rates may be difficult to establish.

  • In a study of 101 adult cancer survivors of childhood cancer, psychological screening was performed during a routine annual evaluation at the survivorship clinic at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.[110]
    • On the Symptom Checklist 90 Revised, 32 survivors had a positive screen (indicating psychological distress), and 14 survivors reported at least one suicidal symptom.
    • Risk factors for psychological distress included survivors' dissatisfaction with physical appearance, poor physical health, and treatment with cranial irradiation.
    • This instrument was shown to be feasible for use in the clinic-visit setting because the psychological screening was completed in less than 30 minutes and did not appear to cause distress in the survivors in 80% of cases.

(Refer to the PDQ summary on Adjustment to Cancer: Anxiety and Distress for more information about psychological distress and cancer patients.)

Post-traumatic stress after childhood cancer

Despite the many stresses associated with the diagnosis of cancer and its treatment, studies have generally shown low levels of post-traumatic stress symptoms and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in children with cancer, typically no higher than those in healthy comparison children.[111]

  • The prevalence of PTSD and post-traumatic stress symptoms has been reported in 15% to 20% of young adult survivors of childhood cancer, with estimates varying based on criteria used to define these conditions.[112]
  • Patient and parent adaptive style appear to be significant determinants of PTSD in the pediatric oncology setting.[113,114]
  • Survivors with PTSD reported more psychological problems and negative beliefs about their illness and health status than did those without PTSD.[115,116]
  • A subset of adult survivors (9%) from the CCSS reported functional impairment and/or clinical distress in addition to the set of symptoms consistent with a full diagnosis of PTSD.[117]
    • PTSD was significantly more prevalent in survivors than in sibling comparisons.
    • PTSD was significantly associated with being unmarried, having an annual income of less than $20,000, being unemployed, having a high school education or less, and being older than 30 years.
    • Survivors who were treated with cranial irradiation before age 4 years were at particularly high risk of developing PTSD.
    • Intensive cancer-directed therapy was also associated with increased risk of full PTSD.
  • Because avoidance of places and persons associated with the cancer is part of PTSD, the syndrome may interfere with obtaining appropriate health care.[118]
    • Those with PTSD perceive greater current threats to their lives or the lives of their children.
    • Other risk factors for PTSD include poor family functioning, decreased social support, and noncancer stressors.

Psychosocial outcomes among childhood, adolescent, and young adult cancer survivors

Most research on late effects after cancer has focused on individuals with a cancer manifestation during childhood. Little is known about the specific impact of a cancer diagnosis with an onset in adolescence or the impact of childhood cancer on adolescent and young adult (AYA) psychosocial outcomes.

Evidence (psychosocial outcomes in AYA cancer survivors):

  1. Adult survivors of cancer diagnosed during adolescence (aged 15–18 years) (N = 825) were compared with an age-matched sample from the general population and a comparison group of adults without cancer.[119]
    • Female survivors of adolescent cancers achieved fewer developmental milestones related to their psychosexual development, such as having their first boyfriend, or they reached these milestones later.
    • Male survivors were more likely to live with their parents than were same-sex controls.
    • Adolescent cancer survivors were less likely to have ever married or have had children. Survivors were significantly older at their first marriage and at the birth of their first child than were their age-matched samples.
    • Survivors in this cohort were also significantly less satisfied with their general and health-related life than were people in a community-based control group. Impaired general and health-related life satisfaction were associated with somatic late effects, symptoms of depression and anxiety, and lower rates of posttraumatic growth.[120]
  2. A survey of 4,054 AYA cancer survivors and 345,592 respondents who had no history of cancer reported the following:[121]
    • AYA cancer survivors were more likely to smoke (26% vs. 18%), be obese (31% vs. 27%), and have chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease (14% vs. 7%), hypertension (35% vs. 9%), asthma (15% vs. 8%), disability (36% vs. 18%), and poor mental health (20% vs. 10%).
    • They were also less likely to receive medical care because of cost (24% vs. 15%).
  3. The CCSS evaluated outcomes of 2,979 adolescent survivors and 649 siblings of childhood cancer survivors to determine the incidence of difficulty in six behavioral and social domains (depression/anxiety, being headstrong, attention deficit, peer conflict/social withdrawal, antisocial behaviors, and social competence).[122]
    • Survivors were 1.5 times (95% CI, 1.1–2.1) more likely than siblings to have symptoms of depression/anxiety and 1.7 times (95% CI, 1.3–2.2) more likely than siblings to have antisocial behaviors.
    • Scores in the depression/anxiety, attention deficit, and antisocial domains were significantly elevated in adolescents treated for leukemia or CNS tumors, compared with the scores in siblings.
    • In addition, survivors of neuroblastoma had difficulty in the depression/anxiety and antisocial domains.
    • CNS-directed treatments (cranial radiation therapy and/or intrathecal methotrexate) were specific risk factors for adverse behavioral outcomes.
  4. Another CCSS study evaluated psychological and neurocognitive function in 2,589 long-term cancer survivors who were diagnosed during adolescence and young adulthood.[123]
    • Compared with a sibling cohort, survivors diagnosed during adolescence and young adulthood reported higher rates of depression (OR, 1.55; 95% CI, 1.04–2.30) and anxiety (OR, 2.00; 95% CI, 1.17–3.43) and reported more cognitive problems affecting task efficiency (OR, 1.72; 95% CI, 1.21–2.43), emotional regulation (OR, 1.74; 95% CI, 1.26–2.40), and memory (OR, 1.44; 95% CI, 1.09–1.89).
    • Survivors of lymphoma and sarcoma diagnosed during later adolescence were at reduced risk of psychosocial and neurocognitive problems than were those diagnosed before age 11 years. These outcomes did not differ by age at diagnosis among CNS tumor and leukemia survivors.
    • Survivors diagnosed during adolescence and young adulthood were also significantly less likely than sibling controls to have attained a post–high school education, be working full time, be married, or be living independently; inferior social outcomes were related to neurocognitive symptoms.
  5. A follow-up CCSS study evaluated profiles of symptom comorbidities in 3,993 adolescents (aged 13–17 years) treated for cancer.[124] Latent profile analysis identified four symptom profiles:
    • No significant symptoms.
    • Elevated internalizing symptoms (anxiety and/or depression, social withdrawal, and attention problems).
    • Elevated externalizing symptoms (headstrong behavior and attention problems).
    • Elevated internalizing and externalizing symptoms.

    Overall results support that behavioral, emotional, and social symptoms frequently co-occur and are associated with treatment exposures (cranial radiation, corticosteroids, and methotrexate) and late effects (obesity, cancer-related pain, and sensory impairments) in adolescent survivors diagnosed between 1970 and 1986.

  6. Another CCSS study characterized the prevalence and risk of pain, clinically significant interference in daily activities because of pain, and recurrent pain in 10,012 adult survivors of childhood cancer (median time since diagnosis, 23 years).[125]
    • A significant minority of survivors endorsed moderate to severe pain (29%), moderate to extreme pain interference (20%), and moderate to severe recurrent pain (9%).
    • Older age at diagnosis and follow-up, female sex, and presence of grades 3 to 4 chronic medical conditions were consistently associated with an increased risk of worse pain outcomes.
    • Minority race, diagnosis of CNS tumor, and treatment with platinum-based chemotherapy and cranial radiation were associated with an increased risk of late-occurrence pain and pain interference.
    • Depression and anxiety were associated with increased risk of all pain outcomes, and poor vitality mediated the effects of anxiety on high pain and pain interference.

Evidence (functional and social independence):

  1. In a study of 665 survivors of CNS tumors (54% male; 52% treated with cranial radiation therapy; median age, 15 years; and 12 years from diagnosis), CCSS investigators observed the following:[100]
    • Almost 50% of survivors experienced social difficulties related to peer relationships that exceeded those of survivors of solid tumors and sibling controls.
    • Cranial radiation exposure predicted impaired social and peer relationships, and cognitive impairment mediated these associations.
  2. A St. Jude Lifetime Cohort Study investigated functional and social independence in 306 CNS tumor survivors (astrocytoma [n = 130], medulloblastoma [n = 77], ependymoma [n = 36], and other [n = 63]; median age, 25 years; and time since diagnosis, 16.8 years).[101]
    • Only 40% of long-term survivors in the study cohort achieved complete independence as adults.
    • Predictors of nonindependence included treatment with craniospinal irradiation, history of hydrocephalus with shunting, and younger age at diagnosis.
    • Beyond impaired IQ scores, functional limitations in aerobic capacity, flexibility, and adaptive physical function were significantly associated with nonindependence.

Social withdrawal in adolescence has been associated with adult obesity and physical inactivity.[126] As a result, these psychological problems may increase future risk for chronic health conditions and support the need to routinely screen and treat psychological problems after cancer therapy.

Because of the challenges experienced by adolescents and young adults at cancer diagnosis and during long-term follow-up, this group may benefit from access to programs to address the unique psychosocial, educational, and vocational issues that impact their transition to survivorship.[127,128]

Refer to the Children's Oncology Group Long-Term Follow-Up Guidelines for Survivors of Childhood, Adolescent, and Young Adult Cancers for CNS and psychosocial late effects information, including risk factors, evaluation, and health counseling.

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Late Effects of the Digestive System

Dental

Overview

Chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and local surgery can cause multiple cosmetic and functional abnormalities of the oral cavity and dentition. The quality of current evidence regarding this outcome is limited by retrospective data collection, small sample size, cohort selection and participation bias, and heterogeneity in treatment approach, time since treatment, and method of ascertainment.

Oral and dental complications reported in childhood cancer survivors include the following:

Osteoradionecrosis and second cancers in the oral cavity also occur.

Abnormalities of tooth development

Abnormalities of dental development reported in childhood cancer survivors include the following:[1-10]

  • Absence of tooth development.
  • Hypodontia.
  • Microdontia.
  • Enamel hypoplasia.
  • Root malformation.

The prevalence of hypodontia has varied widely in series depending on age at diagnosis, treatment modality, and method of ascertainment.

Cancer treatments that have been associated with dental maldevelopment include the following:[3,10]

  • Head and neck radiation therapy.
  • Any chemotherapy.
  • Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT).

Children younger than 5 years are at greatest risk of dental anomalies, including root agenesis, delayed eruption, enamel defects, and/or excessive caries related to disruption of ameloblast (enamel producing) and odontoblast (dentin producing) activity early in life.[3]

Key findings related to cancer treatment effect on tooth development include the following:

  1. Radiation therapy.
    • Radiation directed at the oral cavity or surrounding structures increases the risk of dental anomalies because ameloblasts can be permanently damaged by doses as low as 10 Gy; in addition, salivary function is impacted by exposure to major and minor glands.[3-5]
    • The most significant degree of tooth aplasia or delayed eruption occurs in younger children (aged <4 years) who are exposed to radiation doses of 20 Gy or higher.[11]
    • Developing teeth may be irradiated in the course of treating head and neck sarcomas, Hodgkin lymphoma, neuroblastoma, central nervous system leukemia, nasopharyngeal cancer, brain tumors, and total-body irradiation (TBI) for HSCT.
    • Doses of 10 Gy to 40 Gy can cause root shortening or abnormal curvature, dwarfism, and hypocalcification.[12]
    • Significant dental abnormalities, including mandibular or maxillary hypoplasia, increased caries, hypodontia, microdontia, root stunting, and xerostomia have been reported in more than 85% of survivors of head and neck rhabdomyosarcoma treated with radiation doses higher than 40 Gy.[4,13]
  2. Chemotherapy.
    • Chemotherapy, especially exposure to alkylating agents, can affect tooth development.[3,5,6]
    • Chemotherapy for the treatment of leukemia or neuroblastoma is associated with shortening and thinning of the premolar roots and enamel abnormalities.[8,14-16]
    • Childhood Cancer Survivor Study (CCSS) investigators identified age younger than 5 years and increased exposure to cyclophosphamide as significant risk factors for developmental dental abnormalities in long-term survivors of childhood cancer.[3]
  3. HSCT.
    • HSCT conditioning, especially regimens containing TBI, may result in tooth agenesis and root malformation.[1,2]
    • Younger children who have not developed secondary teeth are most vulnerable.[1,2,5]
    • Children who undergo HSCT with TBI may develop short v-shaped roots, microdontia, enamel hypoplasia, and/or premature apical closure.[1,2,7]
    • Younger age at HSCT is associated with greater severity in dental maldevelopment and deficit in vertical growth of the lower face.[8]
    • Dental abnormalities have been reported in patients who underwent HSCT without TBI, particularly in patients younger than 2 years at the time of the transplant.[16]

Salivary gland dysfunction

Xerostomia, the sensation of dry mouth, is a potential side effect after head and neck irradiation or HSCT that can severely impact quality of life.[17]

  • Complications of reduced salivary secretion include the following:[17,18]
    • Increased caries.
    • Susceptibility to oral infections.
    • Sleep disturbances.
    • Difficulties with chewing, swallowing, and speaking.
  • The prevalence of salivary gland dysfunction after cancer treatment varies based on measurement techniques (patient report vs. stimulated or unstimulated salivary secretion rates).[19]
  • In general, the prevalence of self-reported persistent posttherapy xerostomia is low among childhood cancer survivors.
  • In the CCSS, the prevalence of self-reported xerostomia in survivors was 2.8% compared with 0.3% in siblings, with an increased risk in survivors older than 30 years.[3]

Key findings related to cancer treatment effect on salivary gland function include the following:

  1. Radiation therapy.
    • Salivary gland irradiation incidental to treatment of head and neck malignancies or Hodgkin lymphoma causes a qualitative and quantitative change in salivary flow, which can be reversible after doses of lower than 40 Gy but may be irreversible after higher doses, depending on whether sensitizing chemotherapy is also administered.[17]
    • In a German study of 114 pediatric patients, the risk of acute and late xerostomia increased with parotid and submandibular gland dose. In general, grade 1 or higher xerostomia was seen in patients who received a maximum dose of higher than 20 Gy to the salivary glands. The odds of both acute and late xerostomia were higher in patients who received concurrent chemotherapy compared with those who received radiation therapy alone, with an odds ratio (OR) for acute xerostomia of 3.64 (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.49–8.89) and for late xerostomia of 5.15 (95% CI, 1.20–22.15).[20]
  2. HSCT.
    • HSCT recipients are at increased risk of salivary gland dysfunction related to transplant conditioning or graft-versus-host disease (GVHD).
    • GVHD can cause hyposalivation and xerostomia with resultant dental disease.
    • In a study of pediatric HSCT survivors, 60% of those exposed to a conditioning regimen with cyclophosphamide and 10 Gy single-dose TBI had decreased salivary secretion rates, compared with 26% of those who received cyclophosphamide and busulfan.[21]
    • In another study, the prevalence of reduced salivary secretion did not differ among long-term survivors on the basis of the conditioning regimen (single-dose TBI, 47%; fractionated TBI, 47%; busulfan, 42%).[22]
  3. Chemotherapy.
    • The association of chemotherapy alone with xerostomia remains controversial.[17]
    • Only one study of pediatric patients demonstrated an excess risk (OR, 12.32; 95% CI, 2.1–74.4) of decreased stimulated saliva flow rates among patients treated with cyclophosphamide; however, an increase in dental caries was not noted and patient-reported xerostomia was not evaluated.[6]

Abnormalities of craniofacial development

  • Craniofacial maldevelopment is a common adverse outcome among children treated with high-dose radiation therapy to the head and neck that frequently occurs in association with other oral cavity sequelae such as dental anomalies, xerostomia, and trismus.[4,23]
  • The extent and severity of musculoskeletal disfigurement is related to age at treatment and radiation therapy volume and dose, with higher risk observed among younger patients and those who received 30 Gy or higher of radiation therapy.[23]

Other oral health complications

  • Osteoradionecrosis of the jaw is a rare complication observed in childhood survivors treated with high-dose craniofacial radiation (>40 Gy), particularly after dental extractions in irradiated mandibles.[24,25]
  • Remediation of cosmetic and functional abnormalities often requires multiple surgical interventions.
  • The impact of infectious complications and alterations in the microflora during and after therapy is not known.[5]

Posttherapy management

  • Some studies suggest that fluoride products or chlorhexidine rinses may be beneficial in patients who have undergone radiation therapy.[26]
  • Dental caries are a problematic consequence of reduced salivary quality and flow. The use of topical fluoride can dramatically reduce the frequency of caries, and saliva substitutes and sialagogues can ameliorate sequelae such as xerostomia.[18]
  • The incidence of dental visits for childhood cancer survivors falls below the American Dental Association's recommendation that all adults visit the dentist annually.[27]
  • The Children’s Oncology Group Long-term Follow-Up Guidelines recommend biannual dental cleaning and exams for all survivors of childhood cancer.
  • These findings give health care providers further impetus to encourage routine dental care and dental hygiene evaluations for survivors of childhood treatment.

(Refer to the PDQ summary on Oral Complications of Chemotherapy and Head/Neck Radiation for more information about oral complications in cancer patients.)

Table 4 summarizes oral and dental late effects and the related health screenings.

Table 4. Oral/Dental Late Effectsa
Predisposing TherapyOral/Dental EffectsHealth Screening/Interventions
CT = computed tomography; GVHD = graft-versus-host disease; MRI = magnetic resonance imaging.
aAdapted from the Children's Oncology Group Long-Term Follow-Up Guidelines for Survivors of Childhood, Adolescent, and Young Adult Cancers.
Any chemotherapy; radiation exposing oral cavity Dental developmental abnormalities; tooth/root agenesis; microdontia; root thinning/shortening; enamel dysplasia Dental evaluation and cleaning every 6 months
Regular dental care including fluoride applications
Consultation with orthodontist experienced in management of irradiated childhood cancer survivors
Baseline Panorex x-ray before dental procedures to evaluate root development
Radiation exposing oral cavity Malocclusion; temporomandibular joint dysfunction Dental evaluation and cleaning every 6 months
Regular dental care including fluoride applications
Consultation with orthodontist experienced in management of irradiated childhood cancer survivors
Baseline Panorex x-ray before dental procedures to evaluate root development
Referral to otolaryngologist for assistive devices for jaw opening
Radiation exposing oral cavity; hematopoietic cell transplantation with history of chronic GVHD Xerostomia/salivary gland dysfunction; periodontal disease; dental caries; oral cancer (squamous cell carcinoma) Dental evaluation and cleaning every 6 months
Supportive care with saliva substitutes, moistening agents, and sialogogues (pilocarpine)
Regular dental care including fluoride applications
Referral for biopsy of suspicious lesions
Radiation exposing oral cavity (≥40 Gy) OsteoradionecrosisHistory: impaired or delayed healing after dental work
Exam: persistent jaw pain, swelling or trismus
Imaging studies (x-ray, CT scan and/or MRI) may assist in making diagnosis
Surgical biopsy may be needed to confirm diagnosis
Consider hyperbaric oxygen treatments

Digestive Tract

Overview

The gastrointestinal (GI) tract is sensitive to the acute toxicities of chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery. However, these important treatment modalities can also result in some long-term issues in a treatment- and dose-dependent manner.

Reports published about long-term GI tract outcomes are limited by retrospective data collection, small sample size, cohort selection and participation bias, heterogeneity in treatment approach, time since treatment, and method of ascertainment.

Treatment-related late effects include the following:

  • Upper and lower digestive tract late effects associated with dose intensity of chemotherapy and/or abdominal radiation.
  • Adhesions secondary to abdominal surgery predisposing to postoperative bowel obstruction.

Digestive tract–related late effects include the following:

  • Esophageal dysmotility.
  • Esophageal stricture.
  • Gastroesophageal reflux.
  • Gastritis, enteritis, or colitis.
  • GI motility dysfunction (diarrhea, constipation, encopresis, bowel obstruction).
  • Subsequent malignant neoplasms

Impact of cancer histology on GI outcomes

The abdomen is a relatively common location for several pediatric malignancies, including rhabdomyosarcoma, Wilms tumor, lymphoma, germ cell tumors, and neuroblastoma.

Intra-abdominal tumors often require multimodal therapy, occasionally necessitating resection of bowel, bowel-injuring chemotherapy, and/or radiation therapy. Thus, these tumors would be expected to be particularly prone to long-term digestive tract issues.

GI outcomes from selected cohort studies

Evidence (GI outcomes from selected cohort studies):

  1. Among 5-year childhood cancer survivors participating in the CCSS, the cumulative incidence of self-reported GI conditions was 37.6% at 20 years from cancer diagnosis (25.8% for upper GI complications and 15.5% for lower GI complications), representing an almost twofold excess risk of upper GI complications (relative risk [RR], 1.8; 95% CI, 1.6–2.0) and lower GI complications (RR, 1.9; 95% CI, 1.7–2.2), compared with sibling controls.[28]

    Factors predicting higher risk of specific GI complications include the following:

    • Older age at diagnosis.
    • Intensified therapy (anthracyclines for upper GI complications and alkylating agents for lower GI complications).
    • Abdominal radiation therapy.
    • Abdominal surgery.
  2. A cohort study of children treated for acute myeloid leukemia with chemotherapy alone found that GI disorders were relatively rare and not significantly different from those reported by sibling controls.[29]

Radiation-related GI injury

  • Late radiation injury to the digestive tract is attributable to vascular injury.
  • Necrosis, ulceration, stenosis, or perforation can occur and are characterized by malabsorption, pain, and recurrent episodes of bowel obstruction, as well as perforation and infection.[30-32]
  • In general, fractionated radiation doses of 20 Gy to 30 Gy can be delivered to the small bowel without significant long-term morbidity.[33]
  • Doses higher than 40 Gy are associated with a greater risk of bowel obstruction or chronic enterocolitis.[33]
  • Sensitizing chemotherapeutic agents such as dactinomycin or anthracyclines can increase this risk.

A limited number of reports describe GI complications in pediatric patients with genitourinary solid tumors treated with radiation therapy:[34-36]

  1. The CCSS evaluated the incidence and risk of late-occurring intestinal obstruction requiring surgery in 12,316 5-year survivors (2,002 with and 10,314 without abdominopelvic tumors) and 4,023 siblings.[37]
    • The most common diagnoses among survivors with abdominopelvic tumors were Wilms tumors and neuroblastomas but also included soft tissue sarcomas, lymphomas, and bone tumors.
    • The cumulative incidence of late intestinal obstruction requiring surgery at 35 years was 5.8% among survivors with abdominopelvic tumors, 1.0% among those without abdominopelvic tumors, and 0.3% among siblings.
    • Elevated risk of intestinal obstruction requiring surgery was associated with presence of an abdominopelvic tumor (adjusted rate ratio [ARR], 3.6; P < .001) and exposure to abdominal or pelvic radiation therapy within 5 years of cancer diagnosis (ARR, 2.4; P < .001).
    • Among survivors of abdominopelvic tumors, the median time from diagnosis to the first late intestinal obstruction requiring surgery was 12 years (range, 8–19 years).
    • Lymphoma resulted in the highest cumulative incidence of late-occurring intestinal obstruction that required surgery (7.2% at 35 years after diagnosis).
  2. The CCSS evaluated late-onset anorectal disease in cohort members:[38]
    • Among survivors, pelvic radiation therapy higher than 30 Gy within 5 years of cancer diagnosis was associated with late-onset anorectal disease (ARR for 30–49.9 Gy vs. none, 1.6; ARR for ≥50 Gy vs. none, 5.4).
    • The most frequent anorectal disease reported was fistula in ano, followed by stricture and anorectal subsequent malignant neoplasm.
    • Late-onset anorectal disease was associated with psychological impairment in all domains, as characterized by increased emotional distress and impaired quality of life.
  3. Reports from the Intergroup Rhabdomyosarcoma Study evaluating GI toxicity in long-term survivors of genitourinary rhabdomyosarcoma infrequently observed abnormalities of the irradiated bowel.[34-36]
    • Radiation-related complications occurred in approximately 10% of long-term survivors of paratesticular and bladder/prostate rhabdomyosarcoma and included intraperitoneal adhesions with bowel obstruction, chronic diarrhea, and stricture or enteric fistula formation.

Table 5 summarizes digestive tract late effects and the related health screenings.

Table 5. Digestive Tract Late Effectsa
Predisposing TherapyGastrointestinal EffectsHealth Screening/Interventions
GVHD = graft-versus-host disease; KUB = kidneys, ureter, bladder (plain abdominal radiograph).
aAdapted from the Children's Oncology Group Long-Term Follow-Up Guidelines for Survivors of Childhood, Adolescent, and Young Adult Cancers.
Radiation exposing esophagus; hematopoietic cell transplantation with any history of chronic GVHD Gastroesophageal reflux; esophageal dysmotility; esophageal stricture History: dysphagia, heart burn
Esophageal dilation, antireflux surgery
Radiation exposing bowel Chronic enterocolitis; fistula; strictures History: nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea
Serum protein and albumin levels yearly in patients with chronic diarrhea or fistula
Surgical and/or gastroenterology consultation for symptomatic patients
Radiation exposing bowel; laparotomy Bowel obstruction History: abdominal pain, distention, vomiting, constipation
Exam: tenderness, abdominal guarding, distension (acute episode)
Obtain KUB in patients with clinical symptoms of obstruction
Surgical consultation in patients unresponsive to medical management
Pelvic surgery; cystectomy Fecal incontinence History: chronic constipation, fecal soiling
Rectal exam

Hepatobiliary

Overview

Hepatic complications resulting from childhood cancer therapy are observed primarily as acute treatment toxicities.[39] Because many chemotherapy agents and radiation are hepatotoxic, transient liver function anomalies are common during therapy. Severe acute hepatic complications rarely occur. Survivors of childhood cancer can occasionally exhibit long-standing hepatic injury.[40]

Some general concepts regarding hepatotoxicity related to childhood cancer include the following:

  • The risk of long-term hepatotoxicity is not well defined.
  • Children with primary liver tumors requiring significant liver resection, or even transplant, are at higher risk of liver injury.
  • Children receiving radiation therapy to the liver are at higher risk of liver injury.
  • Children undergoing bone marrow transplant are at higher risk of liver injury.

Certain factors, including the type of chemotherapy, the dose and extent of radiation exposure, the influence of surgical interventions, and the evolving impact of viral hepatitis and/or other infectious complication, need additional attention in future studies.

Types of hepatobiliary late effects

Asymptomatic elevation of liver enzymes is the most common hepatobiliary complication.

  • Asymptomatic elevation of liver enzymes. Liver injury related to treatment for childhood cancer is often asymptomatic and indolent in course. While elevated serum alanine aminotransferase (ALT), aspartate aminotransferase (AST) and gamma glutamyltransferase (GGT) levels can reflect transient acute liver injury during chemotherapy, they are not predictive of late hepatic dysfunction or cirrhosis.
    • Dutch investigators observed hepatobiliary dysfunction in 8.7% of 1,362 long-term survivors (median follow-up, 12.4 years since diagnosis) evaluated by ALT for hepatocellular injury and GGT for biliary tract injury. Cases with a history of viral hepatitis and a history of veno-occlusive disease were excluded.
      • Predictors for elevated ALT and GGT by multivariable analysis included treatment with radiation therapy involving the liver, higher body mass index (BMI), higher alcohol intake, and longer follow-up time; older age at diagnosis was only significantly associated with elevated GGT levels.[41]
    • A St. Jude Lifetime Cohort Study evaluated prevalence of and risk factors for elevated ALT among 2,751 adult survivors of childhood cancer (median age, 31.4 years; median elapsed time from diagnosis, 23.2 years).[42]
      • ALT greater than sex-specific upper limits of normal was prevalent in 41.3% of survivors; however, the prevalence of grade 3 or 4 hepatic injury was infrequent (<1%).
      • Independent risk factors for elevated ALT included non-Hispanic White race/ethnicity, older age at evaluation, being overweight or obese, presence of metabolic syndrome, current treatment with a statin, hepatitis C infection, previous treatment with busulfan or thioguanine, history of hepatic surgery, and the percentage of liver treated with 10 Gy, 15 Gy, 20 Gy, or higher doses.

Less commonly reported hepatobiliary complications include the following:[43]

Cholelithiasis
  • In limited studies, an increased risk of cholelithiasis has been linked to ileal conduit, parenteral nutrition, abdominal surgery, abdominal radiation therapy, and HSCT.[44,45]
  • The cumulative incidence of late (occurring 5 or more years after cancer diagnosis) cholecystectomy among 25,549 CCSS participants diagnosed between 1970 and 1999 (median follow-up, 21.9 years) was 7.2% compared with 6.6% in a sibling control group (rate ratio, 1.3; 95% CI, 1.1–1.5).[46] Independent risk factors for late cholecystectomy include attained age, female sex, increasing BMI, exposure to high-dose (>750 mg/m2) platinum chemotherapy (rate ratio, 2.6; 95% CI, 1.5–4.5), vinca alkaloid chemotherapy (rate ratio, 1.4; 95% CI, 1.1–1.8) or TBI (rate ratio, 2.2; 95% CI, 1.2–2.4).
Focal nodular hyperplasia
  • Lesions made up of regenerating liver called focal nodular hyperplasia (FNH) have been incidentally noted on screening imaging studies after chemotherapy or HSCT.[47,48]
  • FNH is thought to represent iatrogenic benign manifestations of vascular damage and have been associated with veno-occlusive disease, high-dose alkylating agents (e.g., busulfan and melphalan), and liver irradiation.
  • The prevalence of FNH is unknown; while noted at less than 1% in some papers,[48] this is likely an underestimate.
  • In one study of patients who were followed by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) after transplant to assess liver iron stores, the cumulative incidence was 35% at 150 months posttransplant.[47]
  • FNH can mimic metastatic or subsequent tumors, but MRI imaging has a characteristic pattern and is generally diagnostic.
  • Biopsy or resection is usually unnecessary unless the lesions grow or patients have worrisome symptoms.
Nodular regenerative hyperplasia
  • Nodular regenerative hyperplasia is a rare condition characterized by the development of multiple monoacinar regenerative hepatic nodules and mild fibrosis.[43]
  • The pathogenesis of nodular regenerative hyperplasia is not well established but may represent a nonspecific tissue adaptation to heterogeneous hepatic blood flow.[49]
  • Nodular regenerative hyperplasia has rarely been observed in survivors of childhood cancer treated with chemotherapy, with or without liver irradiation.[50,51]
  • Biopsy may be necessary to distinguish nodular regenerative hyperplasia from a subsequent malignancy.
Microvesicular fatty change
  • Histologic evidence of fatty infiltration (93%) and siderosis (up to 70%) was observed in children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) who recently completed intensified therapy. Fibrosis developed in 11% and was associated with higher serum low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol.[52]
  • Fatty liver with insulin resistance has also been reported to develop more frequently in long-term childhood cancer survivors treated with cranial radiation and TBI therapy with allogeneic stem cell transplantation who were not overweight or obese.[53]
  • Prospective studies are needed to define whether acute posttherapy fatty liver change contributes to the development of late steatohepatitis or the metabolic syndrome in this population.
Transfusion-related iron overload
  • Red blood cell transfusion can result in an accumulation of excess iron caused by the disruption of the homeostasis of iron storage and distribution when exogenous iron is loaded into organs.
  • Transfusional iron overload has been reported in pediatric oncology patients, but its prevalence, organ distribution, and severity remain incompletely characterized.
  • MRI has emerged as an accurate, noninvasive means for measuring iron in multiple organ systems.[54,55]
  • In a cross-sectional study of 75 patients (4.4 years of median follow-up time; 4.9 years since last transfusion), MRI iron concentrations were elevated in the liver (49.3%) and pancreas (26.4%), but not in the heart.[54]
  • In a multivariable analysis, cumulative packed red blood cell volume and older age at diagnosis predicted elevated liver iron concentration.[54]
  • Receipt of allogeneic transplantation is a significant risk factor for transfusional iron overload.[56]

Treatment-related risk factors for hepatobiliary late effects

The type and intensity of previous therapy influences risk for late-occurring hepatobiliary effects. In addition to the risk of treatment-related toxicity, recipients of HSCT frequently experience chronic liver dysfunction related to microvascular, immunologic, infectious, metabolic, and other toxic etiologies.

Key findings related to cancer treatment effect on hepatobiliary complications include the following:

Chemotherapy
  • Chemotherapeutic agents with established hepatotoxic potential include antimetabolite agents like 6-mercaptopurine, 6-thioguanine, methotrexate, and rarely, dactinomycin.
  • Veno-occlusive disease/sinusoidal obstruction syndrome (VOD/SOS) and cholestatic disease have been observed after thiopurine administration, especially 6-thioguanine.[57]
  • Progressive fibrosis and portal hypertension have been reported in a subset of children who developed VOD/SOS after treatment with 6-thioguanine.[57-59]
  • Acute, dose-related, reversible VOD/SOS has been observed in children treated with dactinomycin for pediatric solid tumors.[60,61]
  • In the transplant setting, VOD/SOS has also been observed after conditioning regimens that have included cyclophosphamide/TBI, busulfan/cyclophosphamide, and carmustine/cyclophosphamide/etoposide.[62] High-dose cyclophosphamide, common to all of these regimens, is speculated to be a potential causative factor.
Radiation therapy
  • Acute radiation-induced liver disease also causes endothelial cell injury that is characteristic of VOD/SOS.[63]
  • In adults, the whole liver has tolerance up to 30 Gy to 35 Gy with conventional fractionation, the prevalence of radiation-induced liver disease varies from 6% to 66% based on the volume of liver involved and on hepatic reserve.[63,64]
  • Radiation hepatopathy after contemporary treatment appears to be uncommon in long-term survivors without predisposing conditions, such as viral hepatitis or iron overload.[65]
  • The dose threshold for irreversible hepatic injury is uncertain, but is being examined by the Pediatric Normal Tissue Effects in the Clinic (PENTEC) initiative.
  • The risk of injury in children increases with radiation dose, hepatic volume, younger age at treatment, previous partial hepatectomy, and concomitant use of radiomimetic chemotherapy, such as dactinomycin and doxorubicin.[66-69]
  • Survivors who received radiation doses of 40 Gy to at least one-third of the liver volume, doses of 30 Gy or higher to the whole abdomen, or an upper abdominal field involving the entire liver are at highest risk for hepatic dysfunction.[40]
HSCT
  • Chronic liver dysfunction in patients after HSCT is multifactorial in etiology with the most common etiologies including iron overload, chronic GVHD, and viral hepatitis.[70]
  • Patients with chronic GVHD of the GI tract who exhibit an elevated bilirubin have a worse prognosis and quality of life.[71]
  • While chronic liver dysfunction may be seen in more than one-half of long-term HSCT survivors, and the course of the disease appears to be indolent, continued follow-up is needed to establish its long-term impact on survivor health.[72]

Infectious risk factors for hepatobiliary late effects

Viral hepatitis B and C may complicate the treatment course of childhood cancer and result in chronic hepatic dysfunction.

  • Hepatitis B tends to have a more aggressive acute clinical course and a lower rate of chronic infection.
  • Hepatitis C is characterized by a mild acute infection and a high rate of chronic infection.
  • The incidence of transfusion-related hepatitis C in childhood cancer survivors has ranged from 5% to 50% depending on the geographic location of the reporting center.[73-79]
  • Chronic hepatitis predisposes the childhood cancer survivor to cirrhosis, end-stage liver disease, and hepatocellular carcinoma.
  • Concurrent infection with hepatitis B and C in combination or in co-occurrence with other hepatotrophic viruses accelerates the progression of liver disease.
  • Because most patients received some type of blood product during childhood cancer treatment and many are unaware of their transfusion history, screening on the basis of date of diagnosis/treatment is recommended unless there is absolute certainty that the patient did not receive any blood or blood products.[80]
  • All survivors of childhood cancer who received treatment before 1972 should be screened for hepatitis B, and those who received treatment before 1993 should be screened for hepatitis C and referred for discussion of treatment options if screening results are positive.

Posttherapy management

Survivors with liver dysfunction should be counseled regarding risk-reduction methods to prevent hepatic injury.

  • Standard recommendations include maintenance of a healthy body weight, abstinence from alcohol use, and immunization against hepatitis A and B viruses.
  • In patients with chronic hepatitis, precautions to reduce viral transmission to household and sexual contacts should also be reviewed.

Table 6 summarizes hepatobiliary late effects and the related health screenings.

Table 6. Hepatobiliary Late Effectsa
Predisposing TherapyHepatic EffectsHealth Screening/Interventions
ALT = alanine aminotransferase; AST = aspartate aminotransferase; HSCT = hematopoietic stem cell transplantation.
aAdapted from the Children's Oncology Group Long-Term Follow-Up Guidelines for Survivors of Childhood, Adolescent, and Young Adult Cancers.
Methotrexate; mercaptopurine/thioguanine; HSCTHepatic dysfunction Lab: ALT, AST, bilirubin levels
Ferritin in those treated with HSCT
Mercaptopurine/thioguanine; HSCTVeno-occlusive disease/sinusoidal obstructive syndrome Exam: scleral icterus, jaundice, ascites, hepatomegaly, splenomegaly
Lab: ALT, AST, bilirubin, platelet levels
Ferritin in those treated with HSCT
Radiation exposing liver/biliary tract; HSCTHepatic fibrosis/cirrhosis; focal nodular hyperplasia Exam: jaundice, spider angiomas, palmar erythema, xanthomata hepatomegaly, splenomegaly
Lab: ALT, AST, bilirubin levels
Ferritin in those treated with HSCT
Prothrombin time for evaluation of hepatic synthetic function in patients with abnormal liver screening tests
Screen for viral hepatitis in patients with persistently abnormal liver function or any patient transfused before 1993
Gastroenterology/hepatology consultation in patients with persistent liver dysfunction
Hepatitis A and B immunizations in patients lacking immunity
Consider phlebotomy and chelation therapy for iron overload
Radiation exposing liver/biliary tract CholelithiasisHistory: colicky abdominal pain related to fatty food intake, excessive flatulence
Exam: right upper quadrant or epigastric tenderness (acute episode)
Consider gallbladder ultrasound in patients with chronic abdominal pain

Pancreas

The pancreas has been thought to be relatively radioresistant because of a paucity of information about late pancreatic-related effects. However, children and young adults treated with TBI or abdominal irradiation are known to have an increased risk of insulin resistance and diabetes mellitus.[81-83]

While corticosteroids and asparaginase are associated with acute toxicity to the pancreas, late sequelae in the form of exocrine or endocrine pancreatic function for those who sustain acute injury have not been reported.

Evidence (risk of diabetes mellitus):

  1. A retrospective cohort study, based on self-reports of 2,520 5-year survivors of childhood cancer treated in France and the United Kingdom, investigated the relationship between radiation dose to the pancreas and risk of a subsequent diabetes mellitus diagnosis.[84]
    • Sixty-five cases of diabetes mellitus were validated; the risk increased with radiation therapy to the tail of the pancreas, where the islets of Langerhans are concentrated. Risk increased up to 20 to 29 Gy and then plateaued. The estimated RR at 1 Gy was 1.61.
    • Radiation dose to other parts of the pancreas did not have a significant effect.
    • Compared with patients who did not receive radiation therapy, the RR of diabetes mellitus was 11.5 in patients who received more than 10 Gy to the pancreas.
    • Children younger than 2 years at the time of radiation therapy were more sensitive than were older patients (RR at 1 Gy was 2.1 for the young age group vs. 1.4 for older patients).
    • For the 511 patients who received more than 10 Gy, the cumulative incidence of diabetes mellitus was 16%.
  2. Another study evaluated the risk of diabetes mellitus in 2,264 5-year survivors of Hodgkin lymphoma (42% younger than 25 years at diagnosis) after a median follow-up of 21.5 years.[85]
    • The cumulative incidence of diabetes mellitus was 8.3% (95% CI, 6.9%–9.8%) for the overall cohort and 14.2% (95% CI, 10.7%–18.3%) for those treated with more than 36 Gy para-aortic radiation.
    • Survivors treated with more than 36 Gy of radiation to the para-aortic lymph nodes and spleen had a 2.3-fold increased risk of diabetes mellitus compared with those who did not receive radiation therapy.
    • The risk of diabetes mellitus increased with higher doses to the pancreatic tail.
  3. CCSS investigators evaluated the risk of diabetes mellitus among 20,762 5-year childhood cancer survivors and 4,853 siblings.[86]
    • Survivors exposed to abdominal radiation (n = 4,568) were almost three times more likely to develop diabetes than were siblings and 1.6 times more likely than survivors who were not exposed to abdominal radiation.
    • Among survivors treated with abdominal radiation therapy, multivariable modeling identified independent risk factors for developing diabetes, which included older attained age, higher BMI, and increasing dose to the pancreatic tail.
    • A significant interaction was also identified between younger age (<10 years) at cancer diagnosis and higher mean pancreatic tail dose.
  4. St. Jude Lifetime Cohort investigators evaluated the prevalence of and risk factors for diabetes mellitus among 1,044 adult survivors of childhood ALL (mean age, 34 years) who were clinically assessed more than 10 years after treatment and 368 community controls (mean age, 35 years).[87]
    • Type 2 diabetes mellitus was prevalent in 7.5% of survivors and 3.8% of controls.
    • Independent risk factors for developing diabetes among survivors included older age (OR, 1.05 for each additional year), BMI of 30 kg/m2 or higher (OR, 7.4), and history of drug-induced hyperglycemia during therapy (OR, 4.67).

Refer to the Children's Oncology Group Long-Term Follow-Up Guidelines for Survivors of Childhood, Adolescent, and Young Adult Cancers for digestive system late effects information including risk factors, evaluation, and health counseling.

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Late Effects of the Endocrine System

Endocrine dysfunction is very common among childhood cancer survivors, especially those treated with surgery or radiation therapy that involves hormone-producing organs and those receiving alkylating agent chemotherapy.

EnlargeChart showing the prevalence of endocrine disorders at the last follow-up visit by gender.
Figure 10. Prevalence of endocrine disorders at the last follow-up visit, by sex. Brignardello E, Felicetti F, Castiglione A, et al.: Endocrine health conditions in adult survivors of childhood cancer: the need for specialized adult-focused follow-up clinics. European Journal of Endocrinology 168 (3): 465-472, 2013. Copyright © 2013, European Society of Endocrinology.

The prevalence of specific endocrine disorders is affected by the following:[1-4]

  • Patient factors (e.g., age at treatment and sex).
  • Treatment factors (e.g., radiation dose and treatment volume).
  • Time from radiation exposure (typically increases with longer time from radiation exposure [refer to Figure 10]).[1]

Endocrinologic late effects can be broadly categorized as those resulting from hypothalamic/pituitary injury or from peripheral glandular compromise.[1-4] The former are most common after treatment for central nervous system (CNS) tumors, in which the prevalence was reported to be 24.8% in a nationwide cohort study of 718 survivors who lived longer than 2 years and all hypothalamic/pituitary axes were effected.[3]

The following sections summarize research that characterizes the clinical features of survivors at risk of endocrine dysfunction that impacts pituitary, thyroid, adrenal, and gonadal function.

Thyroid Gland

  • Thyroid dysfunction is a common delayed effect of radiation therapy fields that include the thyroid gland incidental to treating Hodgkin lymphoma, brain tumors, head and neck sarcomas, and acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL).
  • There is considerable evidence linking radiation exposure to thyroid abnormalities, but the prevalence of specific conditions varies widely because studies are limited by cohort selection and participation bias, heterogeneity in radiation treatment approach, time since radiation exposure, and method of ascertainment (e.g., self-report vs. clinical or diagnostic imaging assessment).
  • Thyroid abnormalities observed in excess in childhood cancer survivors include the following:
    • Primary hypothyroidism.
    • Hyperthyroidism.
    • Goiter.
    • Nodules.

Hypothyroidism

Risk factors

An increased risk of hypothyroidism has been reported among childhood cancer survivors treated with head and neck radiation exposing the thyroid gland, especially among survivors of Hodgkin lymphoma.[1-4]

Treatment with iodine I 131-metaiodobenzylguanidine (131I-MIBG) can cause primary hypothyroidism despite thyroid protection through potassium iodide, perchlorate, or the combination of potassium iodide, thyroxine (T4) and a thiamazole, which decreases but does not entirely eliminate the risk of 131I-MIBG-induced hypothyroidism.[5]

Clinical presentation
  • Most children treated with radiation therapy develop hypothyroidism within the first 2 to 5 years posttreatment, but new cases can occur later.
  • Reports of thyroid dysfunction differ depending on the dose of radiation, the length of follow-up, and the biochemical criteria used to make the diagnosis.[6]
  • The most frequently reported abnormalities include:
    • Elevated thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH).
    • Depressed thyroxine (T4).
    • Elevated TSH and depressed T4.
  • Central hypothyroidism results from radiation exposure of the hypothalamic pituitary axis; there is typically a low free T4 in conjunction with low TSH.
  • Compensated hypothyroidism includes an elevated TSH with a normal T4 and is asymptomatic. The natural history is unclear, but most endocrinologists support treatment.
  • Uncompensated hypothyroidism includes both an elevated TSH and a depressed T4.
  • Thyroid hormone replacement is beneficial for correction of the metabolic abnormality, and has clinical benefits for cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, and neurocognitive function.

Evidence (prevalence of and risk factors for hypothyroidism):

  1. The German Group of Paediatric Radiation Oncology reported on 1,086 patients treated at 62 centers, including 404 patients (median age, 10.9 years) who received radiation therapy to the thyroid and/or pituitary gland.[7] Follow-up information was available for 264 patients (60.9%; median follow-up, 40 months), with 60 patients (22.7%) showing pathologic values.
    • In comparison to patients treated with prophylactic cranial irradiation (median dose, 12 Gy), patients treated with radiation doses of 15 Gy to 25 Gy to the thyroid gland had a hazard ratio (HR) of 3.072 (P = .002) for the development of pathologic thyroid blood values.
    • Patients treated with more than 25 Gy of radiation to the thyroid gland had an HR of 3.769 (P = .009), and patients treated with craniospinal irradiation had an HR of 5.674 (P < .001).
    • The cumulative incidence of thyroid hormone substitution therapy did not differ between defined subgroups.
  2. The Childhood Cancer Survivor Study (CCSS) investigated the prevalence of self-reported hypothyroidism assessed through serial questionnaires in 12,015 survivors. A total of 1,193 cases of hypothyroidism were observed, 777 (65%) of which occurred 5 or more years after cancer diagnosis.[8]
    • The prevalence at 5 years after cancer diagnosis plus incidence through 30 years after cancer diagnosis was highest in 5-year survivors of Hodgkin lymphoma (32.3%) and cancers of the CNS (17.7%).
    • The incidence was significantly associated with radiation dose to the thyroid and pituitary. The combined effects of thyroid and hypothalamic-pituitary doses appear to be less than additive when pituitary doses are greater than 16 Gy.
    • Radiation-related risks were higher in males than females and inversely associated with age at exposure and time since exposure but remained elevated more than 25 years after exposure.
    • Certain types of chemotherapy were significantly associated with the risk: bleomycin (rate ratio, 3.4), and the alkylating agents CCNU (rate ratio, 3.0) and cyclophosphamide (rate ratio, 1.3). The strongest chemotherapy-associated risk occurred among survivors of CNS cancer. A significant dose response for CCNU was observed (P < .01).
  3. In a cohort of childhood Hodgkin lymphoma survivors treated between 1970 and 1986, survivors were evaluated for thyroid disease by use of a self-report questionnaire in the CCSS.[9]
    • Among 1,791 survivors who were followed for a median of 14 years, 34% of survivors reported that they had been diagnosed with at least one thyroid abnormality.
    • For hypothyroidism, there was a clear dose response (refer to Figure 11), with a 20-year risk of:
      • 20% for those who received less than 35 Gy of radiation to the thyroid gland.
      • 30% for those who received 35 Gy to 44.9 Gy of radiation to the thyroid gland.
      • 50% for those who received more than 45 Gy of radiation to the thyroid gland.
    • Compared with a sibling control group, the relative risk (RR) was 17.1 for hypothyroidism.
    • Elapsed time since diagnosis was a risk factor for hypothyroidism, with the risk increasing in the first 3 to 5 years postdiagnosis.
    • Females were at increased risk for hypothyroidism.
    EnlargeProbability of developing hypothyroidism according to radiation dose in 5-year survivors of childhood cancer; graph shows the proportion not affected in years since diagnosis for no RT, less than 3500 cGy, 3500-4499 cGy, and ≥4500 cGy.
    Figure 11. Probability of developing hypothyroidism according to radiation dose in 5-year survivors of childhood cancer. Data from the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study. Sklar C, Whitton J, Mertens A, Stovall M, Green D, Marina N, Greffe B, Wolden S, Robison L: Abnormalities of the Thyroid in Survivors of Hodgkin's Disease: Data from the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism 85 (9): 3227-3232, September 1, 2000. Copyright 2000, The Endocrine Society.
  4. In a follow-up study from the CCSS that compared self-reported data from 14,290 survivors with data from 4,031 sibling controls.[2]
    • The RR was 3.8 for hypothyroidism and remained significantly higher in survivors when compared with controls even in the absence of radiation therapy to the thyroid or pituitary.
    • These results indicate the need for continued and individualized long-term monitoring strategies in childhood cancer survivors.
  5. Continuous improvements in the precision of radiation therapy delivery carry the promise to decrease the radiation therapy dose received by the thyroid in a subset of patients, as demonstrated in a study of 189 children and young adults (aged <26 years) with brain tumors treated with proton radiation therapy.[10]
    • At a median follow-up of 4.4 years, the cumulative incidence of primary hypothyroidism was 3% after craniospinal irradiation and 1.6% overall, which is substantially lower than previous reports of 56% to 65% incidence after craniospinal irradiation with photons.[10]

Hyperthyroidism

While less common than hypothyroidism, childhood cancer survivors also experience an increased risk of hyperthyroidism.[2,9,11]

Evidence (prevalence of and risk factors for hyperthyroidism):

  1. CCSS investigators evaluated the prevalence of thyroid disease among 1,791 childhood Hodgkin lymphoma survivors treated between 1970 and 1986 and followed for a median of 14 years.[9]
    • Hyperthyroidism was reported by 5% of survivors, which was eightfold greater than the incidence reported by the controls.
    • Thyroid dose of 35 Gy or more was the only risk factor identified for hyperthyroidism.
  2. Another CCSS study evaluated the risk of hyperthyroidism in relation to incidental therapeutic radiation dose to the thyroid and pituitary glands.[11]
    • Hyperthyroidism was self-reported by 179 survivors, with 148 cases diagnosed 5 or more years after cancer diagnosis.
    • The cumulative proportion of survivors with hyperthyroidism by 30 years after cancer diagnosis was 2.5% (95% confidence interval [CI], 2.0%–2.9%).
    • Thyroid radiation increased the risk of hyperthyroidism with evidence of a linear thyroid radiation dose-response over the dose range of 0 Gy to 63 Gy.
    • Radiation dose to the pituitary gland and chemotherapy were not significantly associated with hyperthyroidism.
    • Radiation-associated risk of hyperthyroidism remained elevated longer than 25 years after exposure.

Thyroid nodules

The clinical manifestation of thyroid neoplasia among childhood cancer survivors ranges from asymptomatic, small, solitary nodules to large, intrathoracic goiters that compress adjacent structures.

Risk factors

The following factors are linked to an increased risk of thyroid nodule development:

  1. Radiation dose, time from diagnosis, female sex.
    • Any radiation field that includes the thyroid is associated with an excess risk of thyroid neoplasms, which may be benign (usually adenomas) or malignant (most often differentiated papillary carcinoma).[2,9,12-15]
    • In a study of Hodgkin lymphoma survivors, CCSS investigators identified time from diagnosis, female sex, and radiation dose of 25 Gy or higher as significant risk factors for thyroid nodule development.[9]
    • Based on a cohort of 3,254 2-year childhood cancer survivors treated before 1986 and monitored for 25 years, the risk of thyroid adenoma increased with the size of the radiation dose to the thyroid during childhood cancer treatment and plateaued at doses exceeding 10 Gy.[13]
    • CCSS investigators performed a nested case-control study to evaluate the magnitude of risk for thyroid cancer over the therapeutic radiation dose range of pediatric cancers. The risk of thyroid cancer increased with radiation doses up to 20 Gy to 29 Gy (odds ratio [OR], 9.8; 95% CI, 3.2–34.8), but declined at doses higher than 30 Gy, consistent with a cell-killing effect.[15]
  2. Age at time of radiation therapy.
    • Based on the same cohort of 3,254 2-year childhood cancer survivors, the risk of thyroid adenoma per unit of radiation dose to the thyroid was higher if radiation therapy had been delivered before age 5 years; the risk was also higher in individuals who were younger than 40 years at the time of the study.[13]
    • Younger age at radiation therapy has also been linked to an excess risk of thyroid carcinoma.[12-15]
  3. Exposure to 131I-MIBG.
    • During childhood and adolescence, there is an increased risk of developing thyroid nodules, and potentially thyroid cancer, in patients exposed to 131I-MIBG.
    • Children who have been treated with 131I-MIBG should undergo lifelong monitoring, not only for thyroid function but also for the development of thyroid nodules and thyroid cancer.[16]
  4. Chemotherapy.
    • An increased risk of thyroid nodules and cancer has also been observed in association with chemotherapy, independent of radiation exposure.[2,12,13]
      • In a pooled study of two cohorts of 16,757 survivors that included 187 patients with secondary thyroid cancer, treatments with alkylating agents, anthracyclines, or bleomycin were associated with a significantly increased risk of thyroid cancer in individuals not exposed to radiation therapy.[17]
      • In the CCSS, the rate ratio of developing thyroid cancer was 2.5 (P < .01) in survivors not treated with thyroid radiation when compared with sibling controls.[2]
      • Defining the precise role of exposure to chemotherapy and developing risk prediction models for thyroid cancer in childhood cancer survivors on the basis of demographic and treatment-related risk factors are areas of active research.[18]

Screening for Thyroid Cancer

  • Several investigations have demonstrated the superiority of ultrasound to clinical exam for detecting thyroid nodules and thyroid cancers, and characterized ultrasonographic features of nodules that are more likely to be malignant.[19-21]
  • Primary screening for thyroid neoplasia (beyond physical exam with thyroid palpation) remains controversial because of the lack of data indicating a survival benefit and quality-of-life benefit associated with early detection and intervention.
  • Because these lesions tend to be indolent, are rarely life-threatening, and may clinically manifest many years after exposure to radiation, there are significant concerns regarding the costs and harms of overscreening.[22]
  • Expert panels have refrained from specifically endorsing or discouraging the use of ultrasound as a screening tool for thyroid cancer and this continues to be an active area of investigation.[23]
  • Following a systematic assessment of the evidence, the International Guideline Harmonization Group concluded that initiation of surveillance and the type of surveillance modality (thyroid palpation vs. ultrasound) should be determined by shared decision-making between the health care provider and survivor after carefully considering the benefits and harms. A decision aid to facilitate discussion accompanies their recommendations.[24]

(Refer to the Subsequent Neoplasms section of this summary for information about subsequent thyroid cancers.)

Posttransplant thyroid dysfunction

Survivors of pediatric hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) are at increased risk of thyroid dysfunction.[25]

  • In a report from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, the risk of thyroid dysfunction after HSCT was much lower (15%–16%) after fractionated total-body irradiation (TBI), as opposed to single-dose TBI (46%–48%).[25]
  • The increased risk of thyroid dysfunction did not differ between children receiving a TBI-based or busulfan-based regimen (P = .48).[25]
  • Other high-dose therapies have not been studied.

TSH deficiency (central hypothyroidism) is discussed with late effects that affect the pituitary gland.

Table 7 summarizes thyroid late effects and the related health screenings.

Table 7. Thyroid Late Effectsa
Predisposing Therapy Endocrine/Metabolic EffectsHealth Screening
131I-MIBG = Iodine I 131-metaiodobenzylguanidine; T4 = thyroxine; TSH = thyroid-stimulating hormone.
aAdapted from the Children's Oncology Group Long-Term Follow-Up Guidelines for Survivors of Childhood, Adolescent, and Young Adult Cancers.
Radiation exposing thyroid gland; thyroidectomy Primary hypothyroidismTSH level
Radiation exposing thyroid gland HyperthyroidismFree T4 level
TSH level
Radiation exposing thyroid gland, including 131I-MIBG Thyroid nodulesThyroid exam
Thyroid ultrasound

Hypothalamus/Pituitary Axis

Survivors of childhood cancer are at risk of developing a spectrum of neuroendocrine abnormalities, primarily because of the effect of radiation therapy on the hypothalamus.

  • In addition, tumor development or surgical resection close to the hypothalamus and/or pituitary gland may induce direct anatomical damage to these structures and result in hypothalamic/pituitary dysfunction.
  • Essentially all of the hypothalamic-pituitary axes are at risk.[26-28]

Although the quality of the literature regarding pituitary endocrinopathy among childhood cancer survivors is often limited by retrospective data collection, small sample size, cohort selection and participation bias, heterogeneity in treatment approach, time since treatment, and method of ascertainment, the evidence linking this outcome with radiation therapy, surgery, and tumor infiltration is compelling because affected individuals typically present with metabolic and developmental abnormalities early in follow-up.

Central diabetes insipidus

Central diabetes insipidus may herald the diagnosis of craniopharyngioma, suprasellar germ cell tumor, or Langerhans cell histiocytosis.[29-31]

  • Diabetes insipidus may occur as an isolated pituitary deficiency at presentation of sellar/suprasellar tumors, although additional pituitary hormone deficiencies may develop with tumor progression.
  • More commonly, diabetes insipidus occurs in the context of panhypopituitarism caused by the effects of the tumor on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, or as a consequence of surgical procedures undertaken for local tumor control.
  • Central diabetes insipidus has not been reported as a late effect of cranial irradiation in childhood cancer survivors.[3]

Anterior pituitary hormone deficiency

Deficiencies of anterior pituitary hormones and major hypothalamic regulatory factors are common late effects among survivors treated with cranial irradiation.[28]

Evidence (prevalence of anterior pituitary hormone deficiency):

  1. In a single-institution study, 1,713 adult survivors of childhood cancers and brain tumors (median age, 32 years) were monitored for a median follow-up of 25 years.[27]
    • The prevalence of hypothalamic-pituitary axis disorders was 56.4% in individuals exposed to cranial radiation therapy at doses of 18 Gy or higher.
  2. A study of 748 childhood cancer survivors treated with cranial irradiation and observed for a mean of 27.3 years reported the following:[4]
    • The estimated point prevalence for anterior pituitary hormone deficiency was 46.5% for growth hormone deficiency, 10.8% for luteinizing hormone (LH)/follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) deficiency, 7.5% for TSH deficiency, and 4% for adrenocorticotropin deficiency; the cumulative incidence increased with follow-up.

The six anterior pituitary hormones and their major hypothalamic regulatory factors are outlined in Table 8.

Table 8. Anterior Pituitary Hormones and Major Hypothalamic Regulatory Factors
Pituitary Hormone Hypothalamic FactorHypothalamic Regulation of the Pituitary Hormone
(–) = inhibitory; (+) = stimulatory.
Growth hormone (GH)Growth hormone–releasing hormone +
Somatostatin
Prolactin Dopamine
Luteinizing hormone (LH)Gonadotropin-releasing hormone+
Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) Gonadotropin-releasing hormone+
Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH)Thyroid-releasing hormone +
Somatostatin
Adrenocorticotropin (ACTH)Corticotropin-releasing hormone +
Vasopressin+

Growth hormone deficiency

Growth hormone deficiency is the earliest hormonal deficiency associated with cranial radiation therapy in childhood cancer survivors.

  • The risk increases with radiation dose and time since treatment.
  • Growth hormone deficiency can result from relatively low doses of cranial radiation.[32]
  • Growth hormone deficiency can develop after 18 Gy to 24 Gy as used to treat ALL and lymphoma; the higher the radiation dose, the earlier that growth hormone deficiency will occur after treatment.[33]
  • Approximately 60% to 80% of irradiated pediatric brain tumor patients who received doses higher than 30 Gy will have impaired serum growth hormone response to provocative stimulation, usually within 5 years of treatment.[34,35]

Evidence (radiation-dose response relationship of growth hormone deficiency in childhood brain tumor survivors):

  1. A study of conformal radiation therapy (CRT) in children with CNS tumors indicates that growth hormone insufficiency can usually be demonstrated within 12 months of radiation therapy, depending on hypothalamic dose-volume effects.[34]
  2. In a report featuring data from 118 patients with localized brain tumors who were treated with radiation therapy, peak growth hormone was modeled as an exponential function of time after CRT and mean radiation dose to the hypothalamus.[35]
    • The average patient was predicted to develop growth hormone deficiency with the following combinations of time after CRT and mean dose to the hypothalamus: 12 months and more than 60 Gy; 36 months and 25 Gy to 30 Gy; and 60 months and 15 Gy to 20 Gy.
    • A cumulative dose of 16.1 Gy to the hypothalamus would be considered the mean radiation dose causing a 50% risk of growth hormone deficiency at 5 years (TD50/5) (refer to Figure 12).

EnlargeGraph shows peak growth hormone (in ng/mL) according to hypothalamic mean dose and time (in months) after start of irradiation.
Figure 12. Peak growth hormone (GH) according to hypothalamic mean dose and time after start of radiation. According to equation 2, peak GH = exp{2.5947 + time × [0.0019 − (0.00079 × mean dose)]}. Thomas E. Merchant, Susan R. Rose, Christina Bosley, Shengjie Wu, Xiaoping Xiong, and Robert H. Lustig, Growth Hormone Secretion After Conformal Radiation Therapy in Pediatric Patients With Localized Brain Tumors, Journal of Clinical Oncology, volume 29, issue 36, pages 4776-4780. Reprinted with permission. © (2011) American Society of Clinical Oncology. All rights reserved.

Evidence (risk of growth deficits in childhood ALL survivors):

  1. One study evaluated 127 patients with ALL treated with 24 Gy, 18 Gy, or no cranial radiation therapy.[36]
    • The change in height, compared with population norms expressed as the standard deviation score (SDS), was significant for all three groups, with a dose response of -0.49 ± 0.14 for the group that did not receive radiation therapy, -0.65 ± 0.15 for the group that received 18 Gy of radiation therapy, and -1.38 ± 0.16 for the group that received 24 Gy of radiation therapy.
  2. Survivors of childhood ALL who are treated with chemotherapy alone are also at increased risk for adult short stature, although the risk is highest for those treated with cranial and craniospinal radiation therapy at a young age.[37] In a cross-sectional study, attained adult height was determined for 2,434 ALL survivors participating in the CCSS.
    • All survivor treatment exposure groups (chemotherapy alone and chemotherapy with cranial or craniospinal radiation therapy) had decreased adult height and an increased risk of adult short stature (height SDS < -2), compared with siblings (P < .001).
    • Compared with siblings, the risk of short stature for survivors treated with chemotherapy alone was elevated (OR, 3.4; 95% CI, 1.9–6.0).
    • Among survivors, significant risk factors for short stature included diagnosis of ALL before puberty, higher-dose cranial radiation therapy (≥20 Gy vs. <20 Gy), any radiation therapy to the spine (which effects vertebral bodies), and female sex.
  3. The impact of chemotherapy alone on growth in 67 survivors treated with contemporary regimens for ALL was statistically significant at -0.59 SD. The loss of growth potential did not correlate with growth hormone status in this study, further highlighting the participation of other factors in the growth impairments observed in this population.[38]
  4. In a longitudinal study of 372 survivors of ALL who were treated on a single-institution chemotherapy-only trial, the following were observed:[39]
    • Height z scores declined during treatment and improved after therapy.
    • Younger age at diagnosis (2 to <10 years), or low-risk ALL status, or white blood cell count below 50 × 109/L at diagnosis, or CNS-negative status were associated with significant improvements in z scores for height during the off-therapy period compared with those older at diagnosis (age ≥10 years), or with standard-risk/high-risk ALL status, or a white blood cell count of 50 × 109/L or higher, or CNS-positive status.
    • The loss in height potential in older patients was attributed to attenuation of the growth spurt during treatment without improvement after therapy and to chemotherapy intensity in patients with standard- or high-risk disease features.
Growth after hematopoietic stem cell (HSCT)
  • Children who undergo HSCT with TBI have a significant risk of both growth hormone deficiency and the direct effects of radiation on skeletal development.[40-42]
  • The risk of growth hormone deficiency is increased with single-dose TBI as opposed to fractionated TBI, pretransplant cranial irradiation, female sex, and posttreatment complications such as graft-versus-host disease (GVHD).[40-42]
  • Hyperfractionation of the TBI dose markedly reduces risk in patients who have not undergone cranial irradiation for CNS leukemia prophylaxis or therapy.[43]
  • Regimens containing busulfan and cyclophosphamide appear to increase risk in some studies,[42,44] but not others.[45]

Evidence (growth hormone deficiency in childhood HSCT survivors):

  1. The late effects that occur after HSCT have been studied and reviewed by the Late Effects Working Party of the European Group for Blood and Marrow Transplantation. Among 181 patients with aplastic anemia, leukemias, and lymphomas who underwent HSCT before puberty, the following results were observed:[46,47]
    • An overall decrease in final height–SDS value was found, compared with height at transplant and genetic height. The mean loss of height is estimated to be approximately 1 height–SDS (6 cm), compared with the mean height at time of HSCT and mean genetic height.
    • The type of transplantation, GVHD, and growth hormone or steroid treatment did not influence final height.
    • TBI (single-dose more than fractionated-dose radiation therapy), male sex, and young age at transplant were found to be major factors for long-term height loss.
    • Most patients (140 of 181) reached adult height within the normal range of the general population.
  2. Growth hormone deficiency has been reported after lower doses with a single fraction of 10 Gy and fractionated doses of 12 to 18 Gy of TBI.[48]
Growth hormone replacement therapy
  • Growth hormone replacement therapy provides the benefit of optimizing height outcomes among children who have not reached skeletal maturity.[28] The diagnosis requires specialized dynamic testing.[28,49]
  • Treatment with recombinant growth hormone (rGH) replacement therapy is generally delayed until 12 months after successful completion of cancer or brain tumor treatments and after a multidisciplinary discussion involving the prescribing pediatric endocrinologist, the primary oncologist, and other providers selected by the patient or family.[50]
  • Safety concerns pertaining to the use of rGH in childhood cancer survivors have primarily been related to the mitogenic potential of the growth hormone stimulating tumor growth in a population with an increased risk of second neoplasms.[51] Most studies that report these outcomes, however, are limited by selection bias and small sample size.

Evidence (subsequent neoplasm risk after growth hormone deficiency replacement therapy):

  1. One study evaluated 361 growth hormone–treated cancer survivors enrolled in the CCSS and compared risk of recurrence, risk of subsequent neoplasm, and risk of death among survivors who did and did not receive treatment with growth hormone.[52]
    • The RR of disease recurrence was 0.83 (95% CI, 0.37–1.86) for growth hormone-treated survivors.
    • Growth hormone–treated subjects were diagnosed with 15 subsequent neoplasms, all solid tumors, for an overall RR of 3.21 (95% CI, 1.88–5.46), mainly because of a small excess number of subsequent neoplasms observed in survivors of acute leukemia.[52]
    • With prolonged follow-up, the elevation of subsequent cancer risk resulting from growth hormone diminished.[53]
    • Compared with survivors not treated with growth hormone, those who were treated had a twofold excess risk of developing a subsequent neoplasm (RR, 2.15; 95% CI, 1.33–3.47; P < .002); meningiomas were the most commonly observed neoplasms (9 of 20 tumors).[52]
  2. A review of existing data suggests that treatment with growth hormone is not associated with an increased risk of CNS tumor progression or recurrence, or new or recurrent leukemia.[54]
  3. A study from the CCSS reported specifically on the risk of subsequent CNS neoplasms after a longer period of follow-up.[55]
    • The adjusted rate ratio of meningioma and gliomas in growth hormone-treated survivors of CNS tumors was 1.0 (95% CI, 0.6–1.8; P = .94) when compared with CNS tumor survivors who were not treated with growth hormone, thus indicating negligible differences between the two groups for this particular risk.

In general, the data addressing subsequent malignancies among childhood cancer survivors treated with growth hormone therapy should be interpreted with caution given the small number of events.[28,50-52,56]

Disorders of luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH)

  • Pubertal development can be adversely affected by cranial radiation therapy.
  • Doses higher than 18 Gy can result in central precocious puberty, while doses higher than 30 Gy to 40 Gy may result in LH and FSH deficiency.[57]
Central precocious puberty
Diagnosis of central precocious puberty
  • Central precocious puberty is defined by the onset of pubertal development before age 8 years in girls and 9 years in boys as a result of the premature activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis.
  • Assessment of puberty cannot be performed using testicular volume measurements in boys exposed to chemotherapy or direct radiation to the testes, given the toxic effect of these treatments on germ cells and repercussions on gonadal size.[58]
  • The staging of puberty in males within this population relies on the presence of other signs of virilization, such as the presence of pubic hair and the measurement of plasma testosterone levels.[58]
Prevalence and risk factors
  • Central precocious puberty is among the most common hypothalamic pituitary dysfunctions with prevalence varying across studies by study cohort composition and method of ascertainment.[3,59,60]
  • Children with CNS tumors within or near the hypothalamic pituitary axis (including those with neurofibromatosis type 1) or those treated with cranial radiation are most vulnerable.[3]
    • In a study of 178 childhood brain tumor survivors (median follow-up, 6.6 years), precocious puberty developed in 12.2% of survivors with a 5-year cumulative incidence of 4.0%.[3]
    • Central precocious puberty has been reported in children receiving cranial irradiation in doses of 18 Gy or higher.[59,61,62]
  • Hydrocephalus also increases the risk of central precocious puberty.[63]
Treatment and outcomes associated with central precocious puberty
  • Aside from the adjustment and psychosocial challenges associated with early pubertal development, precocious puberty can lead to the rapid closure of the skeletal growth plates and short stature. This deleterious effect can be further potentiated by growth hormone deficiency.[58,59]
  • The increased growth velocity induced by pubertal development can mask concurrent growth hormone deficiency with seemingly normal growth velocity; this occurrence may mislead care providers.[58]
  • The impact of central precocious puberty on linear growth can be ascertained by assessing the degree of skeletal maturation (or bone age) using an x-ray of the left hand.[64]
  • Delaying the progression of puberty relies on the use of various gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonist preparations, an approach that has been shown to improve growth prospects—especially when other pituitary abnormalities, including growth hormone deficiency, are concurrently treated.[28,65]
LH/FSH deficiency
Prevalence, risk factors, and treatment
  • LH/FSH deficiency (also referred to as hypogonadotropic hypogonadism) can manifest through pubertal delay, arrested puberty, or symptoms of decreased sex hormone production, depending on age and pubertal status at the time of diagnosis.
  • The risk of LH/FSH deficiency is highest among patients treated with cranial radiation at doses greater than or equal to 30 Gy; LH/FSH deficiency following the exposure to lower doses can occur at delayed time points.[4]
  • With higher doses of cranial radiation therapy (>35 Gy), deficiencies in LH/FSH can be seen, with a cumulative incidence of 10% to 20% at 5 to 10 years posttreatment.[60,66]
  • The treatment of LH/FSH deficiency relies on sex-hormone replacement therapy adjusted to age and pubertal status.[28]

TSH deficiency

TSH deficiency (also referred to as central hypothyroidism) in survivors of childhood cancer can have profound clinical consequences and be underappreciated.

Clinical presentation and diagnosis
  • Symptoms of central hypothyroidism (e.g., asthenia, edema, drowsiness, and skin dryness) may have a gradual onset and go unrecognized until thyroid replacement therapy is initiated.
  • In addition to delayed puberty and slow growth, hypothyroidism may cause fatigue, dry skin, constipation, increased sleep requirement, and cold intolerance.
  • Individuals with TSH deficiency have low plasma free T4 levels and either low or inappropriately normal TSH levels.
  • Mixed primary and central hypothyroidism can also occur because of separate injuries to the thyroid gland and the hypothalamus (e.g., radiation injury to both structures) leading to mildly elevated TSH values despite the contribution of hypothalamic pituitary deficits to hypothyroidism in affected individuals.
  • Diagnosing TSH deficiency may be challenging and providers should not hesitate to reassess survivors with symptoms of hypothyroidism and declining, albeit normal, free T4 levels.[28,67]
Prevalence and risk factors
  • The risk of TSH deficiency is highest among patients treated with cranial radiation at doses of 30 Gy or higher; TSH deficiency following the exposure to lower doses can occur at delayed time points.[4]
  • The cumulative incidence of TSH deficiency was 23% (±8%) among embryonal brain tumor survivors treated with risk-adapted craniospinal irradiation (CSI), conformal primary site irradiation, and high-dose chemotherapy. Radiation dose to the hypothalamus in excess of 42 Gy is associated with an increased risk of developing TSH deficiency (44% ± 19% for a dose of ≥42 Gy and 11% ± 8% for a dose of <42 Gy).[68]
  • Among medulloblastoma survivors treated with photon (median follow-up, 9.6 years) or proton (median follow-up, 3.8 years), primary hypothyroidism developed in 12 of 54 patients (22%) after photon radiation therapy and 3 of 41 patients (7%) after proton radiation therapy (HR, 2.1; P = .27). Central hypothyroidism (TSH deficiency) developed in 13 of 54 patients (24%) after photon radiation therapy and 4 of 41 patients (10%) after proton radiation therapy (HR, 2.16, P = .18).[69]
  • In a study of 189 children and young adults (aged <26 years) with brain tumors who were treated with proton radiation therapy, the 4-year actuarial rate of hypothyroidism was 20.1%, with 90% related to central TSH deficiency.[10]
Management of TSH deficiency
  • Thyroid hormone replacement therapy using levothyroxine represents the mainstay of treatment of TSH deficiency.
  • The dose of levothyroxine needs to be adjusted solely using plasma free T4 levels; the levels of TSH are expected to remain low during therapy, given the central nature of this deficiency.
  • Central hypothyroidism should not be treated before assessment of the functioning of other hypothalamic-pituitary deficiencies, because it could precipitate an adrenal crisis in patients with adrenal-corticotropin (ACTH) deficiency.

Adrenal-corticotropin (ACTH) deficiency

Prevalence and risk factors
  • ACTH deficiency is less common than other neuroendocrine deficits but should be suspected in patients who have a history of brain tumor (regardless of therapy modality), cranial radiation therapy, growth hormone deficiency, or central hypothyroidism.[28,68,70,71]
  • ACTH deficiency develops almost exclusively in survivors previously exposed to hypothalamic pituitary doses of 30 Gy or greater.
    • The cumulative incidence of ACTH deficiency was 38% (±6%) among embryonal brain tumor survivors treated with risk-adapted CSI, conformal primary site irradiation, and high-dose chemotherapy. ACTH status was not affected by the dose of radiation therapy administered to the hypothalamus (median, 42.2 Gy for no ACTH deficiency vs. 41.3 Gy for ACTH deficiency).[68]
    • In a study of 189 children and young adults (aged <26 years) with brain tumors who were treated with proton radiation therapy, the 5-year actuarial rate of ACTH deficiency was 8% occurring almost exclusively after ≥40 GyRBE to the hypothalamus and pituitary.[10]
  • Although uncommon, ACTH deficiency can occur in patients treated with intracranial radiation doses of less than 24 Gy and has been reported to occur in fewer than 3% of patients after chemotherapy alone.[71]
Diagnosis and management
  • The diagnosis of ACTH deficiency should be suspected when low plasma levels of morning cortisol are measured (a screening cortisol level collected at 8 AM that is 10 µg/dL or more is reassuring for ACTH sufficiency, whereas a value of 5 µg/dL or lower is suspicious for insufficiency).
  • Confirmation is necessary using dynamic testing such as the low-dose ACTH stimulation test.[70]
  • Because of the substantial risk of central adrenal insufficiency among survivors treated with cranial radiation doses exceeding 30 Gy to the hypothalamic-pituitary axis, endocrine monitoring with periodic dynamic testing as clinically indicated is recommended for this high-risk group.
  • Patients with partial ACTH deficiency may have only subtle symptoms unless they become ill.
  • Illness can disrupt these patients’ usual homeostasis and cause a more severe, prolonged, or complicated course than expected. As in complete ACTH deficiency, incomplete or unrecognized ACTH deficiency can be life-threatening during concurrent illness.
  • The treatment of ACTH deficiency relies on replacement with hydrocortisone, including stress dosing in situations of illness to adjust to the body’s physiologically increased need for glucocorticoids.[28]

Hyperprolactinemia

  • Hyperprolactinemia has been described in patients who received radiation therapy to the hypothalamus in doses higher than 50 Gy or who underwent surgery that disrupted the integrity of the pituitary stalk.
  • Primary hypothyroidism may lead to hyperprolactinemia as a result of hyperplasia of thyrotrophs and lactotrophs, presumably caused by thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH) hypersecretion.
  • The prolactin response to TRH is usually exaggerated in these patients.[32,72]
  • Hyperprolactinemia may result in delayed puberty, galactorrhea, menstrual irregularities, loss of libido, hot flashes, infertility, and osteopenia. Hyperprolactinemia resulting from cranial radiation therapy is rarely symptomatic and is frequently associated with hypogonadism (both central and primary).
  • Hyperprolactinemia rarely requires treatment.

Table 9 summarizes pituitary gland late effects and the related health screenings.

Table 9. Pituitary Gland Late Effectsa
Predisposing Therapy Endocrine/Metabolic Effects Health Screening
BMI = body mass index; FSH = follicle-stimulating hormone; LH = luteinizing hormone; T4 = thyroxine; TSH = thyroid-stimulating hormone.
aAdapted from the Children's Oncology Group Long-Term Follow-Up Guidelines for Survivors of Childhood, Adolescent, and Young Adult Cancers.
bTesticular volume measurements are not reliable in the assessment of pubertal development in boys exposed to chemotherapy or direct radiation to the testes.
cAppropriate only at diagnosis. TSH levels are not useful for follow-up during replacement therapy.
Tumor or surgery affecting hypothalamus/pituitary. Radiation exposing hypothalamic-pituitary axis.Growth hormone deficiencyAssessment of nutritional status
Height, weight, BMI, Tanner stageb
Tumor or surgery affecting hypothalamus/pituitary or optic pathways; hydrocephalus. Radiation exposing hypothalamic-pituitary axis.Precocious puberty Height, weight, BMI, Tanner stageb
FSH, LH, estradiol, or testosterone levels
Tumor or surgery affecting hypothalamus/pituitary. Radiation exposing hypothalamic-pituitary axis. Gonadotropin deficiencyHistory: puberty, sexual function
Exam: Tanner stageb
FSH, LH, estradiol or testosterone levels
Tumor or surgery affecting hypothalamus/pituitary. Radiation exposing hypothalamic-pituitary axis.Central adrenal insufficiencyHistory: failure to thrive, anorexia, episodic dehydration, hypoglycemia, lethargy, unexplained hypotension
Endocrine consultation for those with radiation dose ≥30 Gy
Radiation exposing hypothalamic-pituitary axis.Hyperprolactinemia History/exam: galactorrhea
Prolactin level
Radiation exposing hypothalamic-pituitary axis.Overweight/obesityHeight, weight, BMI
Blood pressure
Components of metabolic syndrome (abdominal obesity, hypertension, dyslipidemia, impaired glucose metabolism)Fasting blood glucose level and lipid profile
Tumor or surgery affecting hypothalamus/pituitary. Radiation exposing hypothalamic-pituitary axis.Central hypothyroidismTSHc free thyroxine (free T4) level

Testis and Ovary

Testicular and ovarian hormonal functions are discussed in the Late Effects of the Reproductive System section of this summary.

Metabolic Syndrome

An increased risk of metabolic syndrome or its components has been observed among childhood cancer survivors. The evidence for this outcome ranges from clinically manifested conditions that are self-reported by survivors to retrospectively assessed data in medical records and hospital registries to systematic clinical evaluations of clinically well-characterized cohorts. Studies have been limited by cohort selection and participation bias, heterogeneity in treatment approach, time since treatment, and method of ascertainment. Despite these limitations, compelling evidence indicates that metabolic syndrome is highly associated with cardiovascular events and mortality.

Definitions of metabolic syndrome are evolving but generally include a combination of central (abdominal) obesity with at least two of the following features:[73]

  • Hypertension.
  • Atherogenic dyslipidemia (elevated triglycerides, reduced high-density lipoprotein [HDL] cholesterol).
  • Abnormal glucose metabolism (fasting hyperglycemia, hyperinsulinism, insulin resistance, diabetes mellitus type 2).

Evidence (prevalence of and risk factors for metabolic syndrome in childhood cancer survivors):

  1. A study monitored 784 long-term childhood ALL survivors (median age, 31.7 years) for a median follow-up of 26.1 years.[74]
    • The prevalence of metabolic syndrome was 33.6%, which was significantly higher than that in a cohort of age-, sex-, and race-matched controls (n = 777) from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (RR, 1.43; 95% CI, 1.22–1.69).
    • Risk factors associated with metabolic syndrome in this study included older age and past exposures to cranial radiation therapy.
    • Components of metabolic syndrome with significantly higher prevalence in ALL survivors than in controls included obesity, insulin resistance, hypertension, and decreased HDL levels.
  2. French investigators evaluated the overall and age-specific prevalence of and risk factors for metabolic syndrome and its components among 650 adult survivors of childhood leukemia treated without HSCT.[75]
    • The overall prevalence of the condition was 6.9%, with the following age-specific cumulative prevalence:
      • 20 years—1.3%.
      • 25 years—6.1%.
      • 30 years—10.8%.
      • 35 years—22.4%.
    • The prevalence of individual components of the metabolic syndrome was as follows:
      • Increased fasting glucose—5.8%.
      • Increased triglycerides—11.7%.
      • Increased abdominal circumference—16.7%.
      • Decreased HDL cholesterol—26.8%.
      • Increased blood pressure—36.7%.
    • Clinical factors significantly predicting the risk of metabolic syndrome included male sex (OR, 2.64; 95% CI, 1.32–5.29), age at last evaluation (OR, 1.10; 95% CI, 1.04–1.17) and body mass index (BMI) at diagnosis (OR, 1.15; 95% CI, 1.01–1.32), but not cumulative steroid dose. Irradiated and nonirradiated patients exhibited different patterns of metabolic abnormalities, with more frequent abdominal obesity in irradiated patients and more frequent hypertension in nonirradiated patients.
  3. In a prospective study of 164 long-term survivors of embryonal tumors treated with abdominal radiation therapy (median follow-up, 26 years), nephroblastoma (OR, 5.2) and neuroblastoma (OR, 6.5) survivors had more components of metabolic syndrome than did controls.[76]
    • Compared with nonirradiated survivors, survivors treated with abdominal irradiation had higher blood pressure, triglycerides, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and total fat percentage, which were assessed by dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry.

Lifestyle impact on modifiable risk factors

  • The contribution of modifiable risk factors associated with metabolic syndrome to the risk of major cardiac events suggests that survivors are good candidates for targeted screening and lifestyle counseling regarding risk-reduction measures.[77]
  • Several studies have provided support for the potential benefits of lifestyle modifications in reducing cardiovascular disease risk.[78-80]

Evidence (lifestyle modifications to reduce cardiovascular risk in childhood cancer survivors):

  1. Survivors participating in the St. Jude Lifetime Cohort Study who were adherent to a heart-healthy lifestyle had a lower risk of metabolic syndrome.[78]
    • Females (RR, 2.4; 95% CI, 1.7–3.3) and males (RR, 2.2; 95% CI, 1.6–3.0) in the cohort who did not follow recommended dietary and physical activity guidelines had a more than twofold excess risk of having clinical features of the metabolic syndrome.
  2. A CCSS investigation evaluated the impact of exercise on cardiovascular disease risk among survivors of Hodgkin lymphoma.[79]
    • Vigorous exercise was associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular events in a dose-dependent manner, independent of cardiovascular risk profile and treatment.
    • Survivors who were adherent to national vigorous-intensity exercise guidelines had a 51% reduction in the risk of any cardiovascular event compared with those not meeting the guidelines.
  3. Another CCSS investigation evaluated the association of exercise with mortality in adult survivors of childhood cancer.[80]
    • After adjusting for chronic health conditions and treatment exposures, all-cause mortality was inversely associated with survivor-reported exercise quartiles (0, 3–6, 9–12, and 15–21 metabolic equivalent task [MET] hours/week).
    • Survivors who endorsed recommended levels of vigorous exercise (≥9 MET hours/week) in early adulthood and those who increased exercise over 8 years had a lower risk of mortality.

Abnormal glucose metabolism

Abdominal radiation therapy and TBI are increasingly recognized as independent risk factors for diabetes mellitus in childhood cancer survivors.[2,81-85]

Evidence (risk factors for diabetes mellitus in childhood cancer survivors):

  1. A single-center cohort study of 532 long-term (median follow-up, 17.9 years) adult (median age, 25.6 years) survivors observed the following:[83]
    • Treatment, but not genetic variation, was strongly associated with the occurrence of the components of metabolic syndrome.
    • Metabolic syndrome was more frequent in cranially (23.3%, P = .002) and abdominally (23.4%, P = .009) irradiated survivors than in nonirradiated survivors (10.0%).
  2. A cross-sectional study evaluated cardiovascular risk factors and insulin resistance in a clinically heterogeneous cohort of 319 childhood cancer survivors 5 or more years since diagnosis and 208 sibling controls.[86]
    • Insulin resistance was significantly higher in survivors treated with cisplatin plus cranial irradiation (92% brain tumors) and in those who received steroids but no cisplatin (most leukemia survivors), compared with siblings.
    • Insulin resistance did not differ between survivors treated with surgery alone and siblings.
    • Among survivors, analysis of individual chemotherapy agents failed to find associations with cardiovascular risk factors or insulin resistance.
    • Compared with siblings, nearly all chemotherapeutic agents, when examined individually, seemed to be associated with a high cardiovascular risk profile, characterized by lower total lean body mass, higher percentage fat mass, and insulin resistance.
  3. In a European multicenter cohort of 2,520 childhood cancer survivors (median follow-up, 28 years), significant associations were found between diabetes mellitus and increasing doses of radiation therapy to the tail of the pancreas, supporting the contribution of radiation-induced islet cell injury to impairments of glucose homeostasis in this population.[84]
  4. A report from the CCSS compared 8,599 childhood cancer survivors with 2,936 randomly selected sibling controls, and adjusted for age, BMI, and several demographic factors.[87]
    • The risk of diabetes mellitus was 1.8 times higher in survivors (95% CI, 1.3–2.5; P < .001).
    • Significant associations were found between diabetes mellitus and young age at diagnosis (0–4 years), the use of alkylating agents and abdominal radiation therapy or TBI.
    • Survivors were significantly more likely to be receiving medication for hypertension, dyslipidemia, and/or diabetes mellitus than were sibling controls.

Table 10 summarizes metabolic syndrome late effects and the related health screenings.

Table 10. Metabolic Syndrome Late Effectsa
Predisposing TherapyPotential Late EffectsHealth Screening
BMI = body mass index.
aAdapted from the Children's Oncology Group Long-Term Follow-Up Guidelines for Survivors of Childhood, Adolescent, and Young Adult Cancers.
Abdominal irradiation; total-body irradiation.Components of metabolic syndrome (abdominal obesity, hypertension, dyslipidemia, impaired glucose metabolism) Height, weight, BMI, blood pressure
Labs: fasting glucose and lipids

Body Composition: Underweight, Overweight, and Obesity

  • Childhood cancer survivors are at risk of experiencing abnormal body composition, which includes being underweight (BMI, <18.5), overweight (BMI, >25.0 to BMI, <30.0), or obese (BMI, ≥30.0).
  • BMI at diagnosis has been identified as a significant predictor of being underweight or overweight at follow-up, suggesting that genetic or environmental factors contribute to the development or persistence of abnormal body composition.[88,89]

Underweight

  • CCSS investigators identified treatment-related risk factors for being underweight, including TBI (females) or abdominal irradiation (males), use of alkylating agents, and use of anthracyclines.[89]
  • Among a cohort of 893 Dutch childhood cancer survivors monitored for a median of almost 15 years, being underweight was linked to a high prevalence of moderate to extreme adverse health statuses and reports of a major medical condition.[88]

Overweight/Obesity

  • To date, cancer patients with an increased incidence of being overweight and obese are primarily ALL [88,90-94] and CNS tumor [26,95] survivors who were treated with cranial radiation therapy.[89,96]
  • The development of overweight/obesity after cranial radiation therapy is multifactorial and includes the following:[92,97,98]
    • Growth hormone deficiency.
    • Leptin sensitivity.
    • Reduced levels of physical activity and energy expenditure.

Evidence (risk factors for overweight/obesity):

  1. CCSS investigators reported the following independent risk factors for obesity in childhood cancer survivors including treatment, lifestyle, and medication use:[99]
    • Cancer diagnosed at ages 5 to 9 years (RR, 1.12; 95% CI, 1.01–1.24).
    • Abnormal physical functioning (RR, 1.19; 95% CI, 1.06–1.33).
    • Hypothalamic/pituitary radiation dose of 20 Gy to 30 Gy (RR, 1.17; 95% CI, 1.05–1.3; P = .01).
    • Specific antidepressant use (paroxetine) (RR, 1.29; 95% CI, 1.08–1.54).
    • Survivors who adhered to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for vigorous physical activity (RR, 0.90; 95% CI, 0.82–0.97; P = .01) and who had a medium amount of anxiety (RR, 0.86; 95% CI, 0.75–0.99; P = .04) had a lower risk of obesity.[99]

Body composition alterations after childhood ALL

  1. Moderate-dose cranial radiation therapy (18–24 Gy) among ALL survivors is associated with obesity, particularly in females treated at a young age.[90,92,100]
    • Female adult survivors of childhood ALL who were treated with cranial radiation therapy of 24 Gy before age 5 years are four times more likely to be obese than are women who have not been treated for a cancer.[90]
    • Women treated with 18 Gy to 24 Gy cranial radiation therapy before age 10 years have a substantially greater rate of increase in their BMI through their young adult years than do women who were treated for ALL with only chemotherapy or women in the general population.[92]
    • These women also have a significantly increased visceral adiposity and associated insulin resistance.[101,102]
  2. Body composition alterations appear to be attenuated in males.
    • A study of long-term male survivors of ALL (mean age, 29 years) observed significantly higher body adiposity than in age-matched controls, despite normal weight and BMI.[103]
    • Potential indicators of increased adiposity included high leptin and low sex hormone–binding globulin levels.[103]
    • Serum testicular endocrine markers (testosterone, FSH, or inhibin B) did not correlate with body adiposity.[103]
  3. ALL therapy regimens are associated with increases in BMI shortly after completion of therapy, and possibly with a higher risk of obesity in the long term.[93,94,104-106]
    • Several studies have reported that survivors of childhood ALL treated with chemotherapy alone also exhibit long-term changes in body composition, with relative increases in body fat [102,107-109] and visceral adiposity in comparison to lean mass.[101]
    • These changes cannot be detected if BMI alone is used in the assessment of metabolic risk in this population.

Evidence (body composition changes in adult survivors of childhood ALL):

  1. A cohort study of 365 adult survivors of ALL (149 treated with cranial radiation therapy and 216 treated without cranial radiation therapy) compared body composition, energy balance, and fitness with age-, sex-, and race-matched peers.[110]
    • Female survivors who were not exposed to cranial irradiation had comparable body composition values to that of peers.
    • Waist circumference, waist-to-height ratio, and total and percent fat mass were higher among male survivors and cranial radiation–exposed female survivors than among comparison group members.
    • Survivors of both sexes exposed to cranial radiation therapy had higher BMI and percent body fat than did survivors not exposed to cranial radiation therapy.
    • Although survivors who did not receive cranial radiation therapy had energy balances similar to the matched peer group, they had significantly higher measures of impaired fitness (impaired flexibility, peripheral sensorimotor deficits, proximal muscle weakness, and poor exercise tolerance).
  2. In a report from the CCSS based on self-reported height and weight measurements, adult survivors of childhood ALL treated with chemotherapy alone did not have significantly higher rates of obesity than did sibling controls,[90] nor were there differences in BMI changes between these groups after a subsequent period of follow-up that averaged 7.8 years.[92]
  3. Swiss investigators evaluated self-reported weight in 1,936 adult survivors of childhood ALL and non-Hodgkin and Hodgkin lymphoma survivors (median age, 24 years; median time from diagnosis, 17 years) and compared them with siblings and the general population.[111]
    • The proportion of survivors reporting overweight (26%) was comparable to that of siblings (24%) and the general Swiss population (25%).
    • There was no evidence of a relationship between cumulative glucocorticoid dose and being overweight.
    • There was also no evidence that the use of cranial radiation therapy modified the effect of the cumulative glucocorticoid dose on being overweight.

Variable outcomes across studies likely relate to the use of BMI as the metric for abnormal body composition, which does not adequately assess visceral adiposity that can contribute to metabolic risk in this population.[112]

Body composition alterations after treatment for CNS tumors

Among brain tumor survivors treated with higher doses of cranial radiation therapy, the highest risk for obesity has been observed in females treated at a younger age.[113]

Craniopharyngioma survivors have a substantially increased risk of extreme obesity because of the tumor location and the hypothalamic damage resulting from surgical resection.[114-117]

Body composition alterations after hematopoietic stem cell transplantation

  • Survivors of childhood cancer treated with TBI in preparation for an allogeneic HSCT have increased measures of body fatness (percent fat) while often having a normal BMI.[85,118-120]
  • Longitudinal decline in BMI related to substantial decrease in lean mass has been observed among survivors of hematological malignancies treated with allogeneic HSCT.[121]
  • This finding was largely attributable to TBI conditioning and severity of chronic GVHD.[121]

Body composition and frailty

Young adult childhood cancer survivors have a higher-than-expected prevalence of frailty, a phenotype characterized by low muscle mass, self-reported exhaustion, low energy expenditure, slow walking speed, and weakness.[122]

  • Individuals are termed prefrail if they have two of these five characteristics and frail if they have three or more of these characteristics.[122]
  • The frailty phenotype increases in prevalence with aging, and has been associated with excess risk of mortality and onset of chronic conditions.[122]
  • In CCSS participants, the overall prevalence of frailty among survivors (6.4%) was three times higher than that of sibling controls (2.2%).[123]
    • The highest prevalence of frailty was reported in survivors of CNS tumors (9.5%) and bone tumors (8.1%).
    • Cranial radiation, pelvic radiation (≥34 Gy), and lung surgery were independent risk factors for frailty in the CCSS cohort.
  • Ongoing research aims to elucidate the pathophysiology of frailty and develop/test interventions to prevent or reverse this condition.

Table 11 summarizes body composition late effects and the related health screenings.

Table 11. Body Composition Late Effectsa
Predisposing TherapyPotential Late EffectsHealth Screening
BMI = body mass index.
aAdapted from the Children's Oncology Group Long-Term Follow-Up Guidelines for Survivors of Childhood, Adolescent, and Young Adult Cancers.
Cranial radiation therapyOverweight/obesityHeight, weight, BMI, blood pressure
Labs: fasting glucose and lipids

Refer to the Children's Oncology Group Long-Term Follow-Up Guidelines for Survivors of Childhood, Adolescent, and Young Adult Cancers for endocrine and metabolic syndrome late effects information, including risk factors, evaluation, and health counseling.

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Late Effects of the Immune System

Late effects of the immune system have not been well studied, especially in survivors treated with contemporary therapies. Reports published about long-term immune system outcomes are limited by retrospective data collection, small sample size, cohort selection and participation bias, heterogeneity in treatment approach, time since treatment, and method of ascertainment.

Asplenia

Surgical or functional splenectomy increases the risk of life-threatening invasive bacterial infection:[1]

  • Although staging laparotomy is no longer standard practice for pediatric Hodgkin lymphoma, patients from earlier treatment periods have ongoing risks.[2,3]
  • Children may be rendered asplenic by radiation therapy to the spleen in doses greater than 30 Gy.[4,5] Low-dose involved-field radiation therapy (21 Gy) combined with multiagent chemotherapy did not appear to adversely affect splenic function, as measured by pitted red blood cell assays.[5] No other studies of immune status after radiation therapy are available.
  • Functional asplenia (with Howell-Jolly bodies, reduced splenic size and blood flow) after hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) has been attributed to graft-versus-host disease (GVHD).
  • Childhood Cancer Survivor Study investigators observed a significantly increased risk of late infection-related mortality among survivors who were treated with splenectomy (relative risk [RR], 7.7; 95% confidence interval [CI], 3.1–19.1).[6]
    • Splenic radiation was also associated with a dose-related risk of late infection-related mortality (0.1–9.9 Gy: RR, 2.0; 95% CI, 0.9–4.5; 10.0–19.9 Gy: RR, 5.5; 95% CI, 1.9–15.4; >20.0 Gy: RR, 6.0; 95% CI, 1.8–20.2).
    • The low cumulative incidence of infection-related late mortality of 1.5% at 35 years after splenectomy and 0.6% after splenic radiation indicates that these are rare events.

Individuals with asplenia, regardless of the reason for the asplenic state, have an increased risk of fulminant bacteremia, especially associated with encapsulated bacteria, which is associated with a high mortality rate.

The risk of bacteremia is higher in younger children than in older children, and this risk may be higher during the years immediately after splenectomy. Fulminant septicemia, however, has been reported in adults up to 25 years after splenectomy.

Bacteremia may be caused by the following organisms in asplenic survivors:

  • Streptococcus pneumoniae. The most common pathogen that causes bacteremia in children with asplenia.
  • Other streptococci.
  • Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib).
  • Neisseria meningitidis.
  • Escherichia coli; Staphylococcus aureus.
  • Gram-negative bacilli, such as the Salmonella species, the Klebsiella species, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

Individuals with functional or surgical asplenia are also at increased risk of fatal malaria and severe babesiosis.

Posttherapy management

  • Clinicians should consider and encourage the administration of inactivated vaccines (e.g., influenza) and vaccines made of purified antigens (e.g., pneumococcus), bacterial components (e.g., diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis), or genetically engineered recombinant antigens (e.g., hepatitis B) in all cancer and transplant survivors according to recommended doses and schedules.[7-9]
  • Two primary doses of quadrivalent meningococcal conjugate vaccine should be administered 2 months apart to children with asplenia, from age 2 years through adolescence, and a booster dose should be administered every 5 years.[10] (Refer to the Immunization Schedules for 2020 section of the Red Book for more information.)
    • The efficacy of meningococcal vaccines in children with asplenia has not been established. (Refer to the Meningococcal Infections section of the Red Book for more information.)
    • No known contraindication exists to giving these vaccines at the same time as other required vaccines, in separate syringes, and at different sites.
  • Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) and pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV) are indicated at the recommended age for all children with asplenia.[11,12] (Refer to the Pneumococcal Infections section of the Red Book for more information.)
    • Following the administration of the appropriate number of doses of PCV13, PPSV23 should be administered starting at age 24 months.
    • A second dose should be administered 5 years later.
    • For children aged 2 to 5 years with a complete PCV7 series who have not received PCV13, a supplemental dose of PCV13 should be administered.
    • For asplenic individuals aged 6 to 18 years who have not received a dose of PCV13, a supplemental dose of PCV13 should be considered.
  • Hib immunization should be initiated at age 2 months, as recommended for otherwise healthy young children and for previously unimmunized children with asplenia.[11] (Refer to the Immunization Schedules for 2020 section of the Red Book for more information.)

Daily antimicrobial prophylaxis against pneumococcal infections is recommended for young children with asplenia, regardless of their immunization status.

  • Although the efficacy of daily antimicrobial prophylaxis has been proven only in patients with sickle cell anemia, this experience has been extended to other high-risk children, including asplenic children with a history of malignant neoplasms or thalassemia.
  • In general, antimicrobial prophylaxis (in addition to immunization) should be considered for all children with asplenia younger than 5 years and for at least 1 year after splenectomy.
  • The age at which antimicrobial prophylaxis is discontinued is an empiric decision.
    • On the basis of a multicenter study in sickle cell disease, prophylactic penicillin can be discontinued at age 5 years among those who are receiving regular medical attention and who have not had a severe pneumococcal infection or surgical splenectomy.
    • The appropriate duration of prophylaxis is unknown for children with asplenia attributable to other causes.
    • Some experts continue prophylaxis throughout childhood and into adulthood for particularly high-risk patients with asplenia.

Table 12 summarizes spleen late effects and the related health screenings.

Table 12. Spleen Late Effectsa
Predisposing TherapyImmunologic EffectsHealth Screening/Interventions
GVHD = graft-versus-host disease; HSCT = hematopoietic stem cell transplantation; IgA = immunoglobulin A; T = temperature.
aAdapted from the Children's Oncology Group Long-Term Follow-Up Guidelines for Survivors of Childhood, Adolescent, and Young Adult Cancers.
Radiation exposing spleen; splenectomy; HSCT with currently active GVHD Asplenia/hyposplenia; overwhelming post-splenectomy sepsisBlood cultures during febrile episodes (T >38.5°C); empiric antibiotics
Immunization for encapsulated organisms (pneumococcal, Haemophilus influenzae type b, and meningococcal vaccines)
HSCT with any history of chronic GVHD Immunologic complications (secretory IgA deficiency, hypogammaglobulinemia, decreased B cells, T cell dysfunction, chronic infections [e.g., conjunctivitis, sinusitis, and bronchitis associated with chronic GVHD])History: chronic conjunctivitis, chronic sinusitis, chronic bronchitis, recurrent or unusual infections, sepsis
Exam: attention to eyes, nose/sinuses, and lungs

Refer to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Guidelines for Preventing Opportunistic Infections Among Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplant Recipients for more information on posttransplant immunization.

Humoral Immunity

Although the immune system appears to recover from the effects of active chemotherapy and radiation therapy, there is some evidence that lymphoid subsets do not normalize in all survivors. Innate immunity, thymopoiesis, and DNA damage responses to radiation were shown to be abnormal in survivors of childhood leukemia.[13]

  • Defects in immune recovery characterized by B-cell depletion have been observed in 2-year survivors of standard-risk and intermediate-risk acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL).[14]
  • Antibody levels to previous vaccinations are also reduced in patients off therapy for ALL for at least 1 year,[15,16] suggesting abnormal humoral immunity [17] and a need for revaccination in such children.
  • Survivors of childhood cancer may remain susceptible to vaccine-preventable infections. Treatment intensity, age at diagnosis, and time from treatment are associated with the risk of losing preexisting immunity.[18,19]

While there is a paucity of data regarding the benefits of administering active immunizations in this population, reimmunization is necessary to provide protective antibodies.

  • The recommended reimmunization schedule will depend on previously received vaccinations and on the intensity of therapy.[20,21]
  • In some children who received intensive treatment, consideration may be given to evaluating the antibodies against common vaccination antigens to determine the need for revaccination. (Refer to the Immunization Schedules for 2020 section of the Red Book for more information.)

Immune status is also compromised after HSCT, particularly in association with GVHD.[22]

  • In a prospective longitudinal study of 210 survivors treated with allogeneic HSCT, antibody responses lasting for more than 5 years after immunization were observed in most patients for tetanus (95.7%), rubella (92.3%), poliovirus (97.9%), and, in diphtheria-tetanus-acellular pertussis (DTaP) recipients, diphtheria (100%).[23]
    • Responses to pertussis (25.0%), measles (66.7%), mumps (61.5%), hepatitis B (72.9%), and diphtheria in tetanus-diphtheria (Td) recipients (48.6%) were less favorable.
    • Factors associated with vaccine failure include older age at immunization; lower CD3, CD4, or CD19 count; higher immunoglobulin M concentration; positive recipient cytomegalovirus serology; negative titer before immunization; history of acute or chronic GVHD; and radiation conditioning.

Follow-up recommendations for transplant recipients have been published by the major North American and European transplant groups, the CDC, and the Infectious Diseases Society of America.[24,25]

Refer to the Children's Oncology Group Long-Term Follow-Up Guidelines for Survivors of Childhood, Adolescent, and Young Adult Cancers for immune system late effects information including risk factors, evaluation, and health counseling.

References
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  21. Patel SR, Chisholm JC, Heath PT: Vaccinations in children treated with standard-dose cancer therapy or hematopoietic stem cell transplantation. Pediatr Clin North Am 55 (1): 169-86, xi, 2008. [PUBMED Abstract]
  22. Olkinuora HA, Taskinen MH, Saarinen-Pihkala UM, et al.: Multiple viral infections post-hematopoietic stem cell transplantation are linked to the appearance of chronic GVHD among pediatric recipients of allogeneic grafts. Pediatr Transplant 14 (2): 242-8, 2010. [PUBMED Abstract]
  23. Inaba H, Hartford CM, Pei D, et al.: Longitudinal analysis of antibody response to immunization in paediatric survivors after allogeneic haematopoietic stem cell transplantation. Br J Haematol 156 (1): 109-17, 2012. [PUBMED Abstract]
  24. Rizzo JD, Wingard JR, Tichelli A, et al.: Recommended screening and preventive practices for long-term survivors after hematopoietic cell transplantation: joint recommendations of the European Group for Blood and Marrow Transplantation, Center for International Blood and Marrow Transplant Research, and the American Society for Blood and Marrow Transplantation (EBMT/CIBMTR/ASBMT). Bone Marrow Transplant 37 (3): 249-61, 2006. [PUBMED Abstract]
  25. Tomblyn M, Chiller T, Einsele H, et al.: Guidelines for preventing infectious complications among hematopoietic cell transplantation recipients: a global perspective. Biol Blood Marrow Transplant 15 (10): 1143-238, 2009. [PUBMED Abstract]

Late Effects of the Musculoskeletal System

The musculoskeletal system of growing children and adolescents is vulnerable to the cytotoxic effects of cancer therapies, including surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. Documented late effects include the following:

  • Bone and joint (abnormal bone and/or muscle growth) problems.
  • Deformity and functional loss associated with amputation/limb-sparing surgery, joint contracture, osteoporosis/fractures, and osteonecrosis.
  • Changes in body composition (obesity and loss of lean muscle mass).

While these late effects are discussed individually, it is important to remember that the components of the musculoskeletal system are interrelated. For example, hypoplasia of a muscle group can negatively affect the function of the long bones and the resultant dysfunction can subsequently lead to disuse and osteoporosis.

The major strength of the published literature documenting musculoskeletal late effects among children and adolescents treated for cancer is that most studies have clearly defined outcomes and exposures. However, many studies are observational and cross-sectional or retrospective in design. Single-institution studies are common, and for some outcomes, only small convenience cohorts have been described. Thus, it is possible that studies either excluded patients with the most severe musculoskeletal effects because of death or inability to participate in follow-up testing, or oversampled those with the most severe musculoskeletal late effects because these patients were accessible as they returned for complication-related follow-up. Additionally, some of the results reported in adult survivors of childhood cancer may not be relevant to patients currently being treated because the delivery of anticancer modalities, particularly radiation therapy, has changed over the years in response to documented toxicities.

Abnormal Bone Growth

The effect of radiation on bone growth depends on the sites irradiated, as follows:

Radiation to the head and brain

In an age- and dose-dependent fashion, radiation can inhibit normal bone and muscle maturation and development.

  • Radiation to the head (e.g., cranial, orbital, infratemporal, or nasopharyngeal radiation therapy) can cause craniofacial abnormalities, particularly in children treated before age 5 years who received radiation doses of 20 Gy or higher [1-4] or who were treated with concomitant chemotherapy.[5]
  • Soft tissue sarcomas such as orbital rhabdomyosarcoma and retinoblastoma are two of the more common cancer types treated with these radiation fields. Often, in addition to the cosmetic impact of the craniofacial abnormalities, there can be related dental and sinus problems.

Cranial radiation therapy damages the hypothalamic-pituitary axis in an age- and dose-response fashion and can result in growth hormone deficiency.[6,7] If the growth hormone deficiency is not treated during the growing years and, sometimes, even with appropriate treatment, it leads to a substantially lower final height. Patients with a central nervous system (CNS) tumor [8,9] or acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) [10,11] treated with 18 Gy or higher of cranial radiation therapy are at highest risk. Patients treated with single-fraction total-body irradiation (TBI),[12-14] and those treated with cranial radiation for non-CNS solid tumors [15] are also at risk of growth hormone deficiency. If the spine is also irradiated (e.g., craniospinal radiation therapy for medulloblastoma or early ALL therapies in the 1960s), growth can be affected by two separate mechanisms—growth hormone deficiency and direct damage to the spine.

Radiation to the spine and long bones

Radiation therapy can also directly affect the growth of the spine and long bones (and associated muscle groups) and can cause premature closure of the epiphyses, leading to the following:[16-23]

  • Short stature.
  • Asymmetric growth (scoliosis/kyphosis).
  • Limb-length discrepancy.

Orthovoltage radiation therapy, commonly used before 1970, delivered high doses of radiation to bone and was commonly associated with subsequent abnormalities in bone growth.

However, even with contemporary radiation therapy, if a solid tumor is located near an epiphysis or the spine, alterations in normal bone development can be difficult to avoid.

The effects of radiation therapy administered to the spine on stature in survivors of Wilms tumor have been assessed.

Evidence (effect of radiation therapy on the spine and long bones):

  1. In the National Wilms Tumor Study (studies 1 through 4), stature loss in 2,778 children was evaluated.[16]
    • Repeated height measurements were collected during long-term follow-up.
    • The effects of radiation dosage, age at treatment, and chemotherapy on stature were analyzed using statistical models that accounted for the normal variation in height with sex and advancing age.
    • Predictions from the model were validated by descriptive analysis of heights measured at ages 17 to 18 years for 205 patients.
    • For those younger than 12 months at diagnosis who received more than 10 Gy of radiation therapy, the estimated adult-height deficit was 7.7 cm when compared with the nonradiation therapy group.
    • For those who received 10 Gy, the estimated trunk shortening was 2.8 cm or less.
    • Among those whose height measurements in the teenage years were available, patients who received more than 15 Gy of radiation therapy were 4 to 7 cm shorter on average than their nonirradiated counterparts, with a dose-response relationship evident.
    • Chemotherapy did not confer additional risk.
  2. The effect of radiation therapy on the development of scoliosis has also been re-evaluated. In a group of 42 children treated for Wilms tumor from 1968 to 1994, scoliosis was seen in 18 patients, with only one patient needing orthopedic intervention.[24]
    • Median time to development of scoliosis was 102 months (range, 16–146 months).
    • A clear dose-response relationship was seen; children treated with lower doses (<24 Gy) of radiation had a significantly lower incidence of scoliosis than those who received more than 24 Gy of radiation.
    • There was also a suggestion that the incidence was lower in patients who received 10 to 12 Gy, the dosages currently used for Wilms tumor, although the sample size was small.

Osteoporosis and Fractures

Although increased rates of fracture are not reported among long-term survivors of childhood cancer,[25] maximal peak bone mass is an important factor influencing the risk of osteoporosis and fracture among older patients. Treatment-related factors that affect bone mineral loss include the following:

  • Chemotherapy. Methotrexate has a cytotoxic effect on osteoblasts, resulting in a reduction of bone volume and formation of new bone.[26,27] This effect may be exacerbated by the chronic use of corticosteroids, another class of agents routinely used in the treatment of hematological malignancies and in supportive care for a variety of pediatric cancers.
  • Radiation therapy. Radiation-related endocrinopathies, such as growth hormone deficiency or hypogonadism, may contribute to ongoing bone mineral loss.[28-31]
  • Nutrition and activity. Suboptimal nutrition and physical inactivity may further predispose to deficits in bone mineral accretion.

Most of our knowledge about cancer and treatment effects on bone mineralization has been derived from studies of children with ALL.[32]

  • In children with ALL, the leukemic process, and possibly vitamin D deficiency, may play a role in the alterations in bone metabolism and bone mass observed at diagnosis.[33]
  • Antileukemic therapy causes additional bone mineral density loss,[34] which has been reported to normalize over time [35] or to persist for many years after completion of therapy.[36]
  • Clinical factors predicting higher risk of low bone mineral density include treatment with the following:[30,37-39]
    • High cumulative doses of methotrexate (>40 g/m2).
    • High cumulative doses of corticosteroids (>9 g/m2).
    • Cranial radiation therapy or craniospinal radiation therapy.
    • More potent glucocorticoids such as dexamethasone.
    • The development of osteonecrosis during treatment for ALL.[40]

Clinical assessment of bone mineral density in adults treated for childhood ALL indicates that most bone mineral deficits normalize over time after discontinuing osteotoxic therapy.[30]

Evidence (low bone mineral density):

  1. A cohort of 845 adult survivors of childhood ALL were evaluated at a median age of 31 years.[30]
    • Very low bone mineral density was relatively uncommon, with only 5.7% and 23.8% of patients demonstrating bone mineral density z-scores consistent with osteoporosis and osteopenia, respectively.
    • Cranial radiation dose of 24 Gy or higher, but not cumulative methotrexate or prednisone equivalent doses, was associated with a twofold elevated risk of bone mineral density z-scores of -1 or lower.
    • In a subset of 400 survivors with longitudinal bone mineral density evaluations, bone mineral density z-scores tended to improve from adolescence to young adulthood.
  2. Among 862 ALL survivors (median age, 31.3 years) evaluated by quantitative computed tomography of L1 through L2 vertebrae, 30% of survivors had low bone mineral density (z-score below -1) and 18.6% met criteria for frailty or prefrailty.[41]
    • The prefrail phenotype is characterized by having two of five characteristics (low muscle mass, self-reported exhaustion, low energy expenditure, slow walking speed, and weakness), and the frail phenotype is characterized by having three or more of these characteristics.
    • Modifiable factors such as growth hormone deficiency, smoking, and alcohol consumption were significant predictors for these outcomes, with varying impact on the basis of sex.
    • These data underscore the importance of lifestyle counseling and screening for hormonal deficits during long-term survivors' follow-up evaluations.
  3. Bone mineral density deficits that are likely multifactorial in etiology have been reported in allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) recipients conditioned with TBI.[42,43]
    • French investigators observed a significant risk of lower femoral bone mineral density among adult survivors of childhood leukemia treated with HSCT who had gonadal deficiency.[44]
    • Hormonal therapy has been shown to enhance the bone mineral density of adolescent girls diagnosed with hypogonadism after HSCT.[45]

Fracture risk in childhood cancer survivors

  • Despite disease-related and treatment-related risks of bone mineral density deficits, the prevalence of self-reported fractures among Childhood Cancer Survivor Study (CCSS) participants was lower than that reported by sibling controls. Predictors of increased prevalence of fracture by multivariable analyses included the following:[25]
    • Among female survivors, increasing age at follow-up, white race, methotrexate treatment, and balance difficulties.
    • Among male survivors, smoking history and white race.

Radiation-induced fractures can occur with doses of radiation of 50 Gy or higher, as is often used in the treatment of Ewing sarcoma of the extremity.[46,47]

Risk prediction model for bone mineral density deficits

Data from the St. Jude Lifetime Cohort (development) and Erasmus Medical Center (validation) in the Netherlands were used to develop and validate prediction models for low and very low bone mineral density on the basis of clinical and treatment characteristics that identify adult survivors of childhood cancer who require screening by dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry.[48]

  • Low bone mineral density was defined as lumbar spine bone mineral density and/or total-body bone mineral density Z score of -1 or lower; very low bone mineral density was defined as a Z score of -2 or lower.
  • Low bone mineral density was present in 51% and 45% of St. Jude Lifetime and Dutch participants, represented by survivors of both hematologic and solid malignancies, respectively, and very low bone mineral density was present in 20% and 10%, respectively.
  • The model, which included male sex, height, weight, attained age, current smoking status, and cranial irradiation, showed good performance for predicting risk of low bone mineral density (areas under the curve of 0.72 in the St. Jude Lifetime Cohort and 0.69 in the Dutch cohort).
  • The model, which included male sex, height, weight, attained age, cranial irradiation, and abdominal irradiation, showed good performance for predicting risk of very low bone mineral density (areas under the curve of 0.76 in the St. Jude Lifetime Cohort and 0.75 in the Dutch cohort).
  • These models correctly identified bone mineral density status in most white adult survivors through age 40 years using easily measured patient and treatment characteristics.

Osteonecrosis

Osteonecrosis (also known as aseptic or avascular necrosis) is a rare, but well-recognized skeletal complication observed predominantly in survivors of pediatric hematological malignancies treated with corticosteroids.[49-51] The condition is characterized by death of one or more segments of bone that most often affects weight-bearing joints, especially the hips and knees.

  • The prevalence of osteonecrosis has varied from 1% to 22% based on the study population, treatment protocol, method of evaluation, and time from treatment.[51-58]
  • Longitudinal cohort studies have identified a spectrum of clinical manifestations of osteonecrosis, ranging from asymptomatic, spontaneously resolving imaging changes to painful progressive articular collapse requiring joint replacement.[59,60]
  • Symptomatic osteonecrosis characterized by pain, joint swelling, and reduced mobility typically presents during the first 2 years of therapy, particularly in patients with ALL.
  • These symptoms may improve over time, persist, or progress in the years after completion of therapy.[61]
  • In one series, 60% of patients continued to have symptoms at a median follow-up of 4.9 years after diagnosis of osteonecrosis.[62]
  • Impaired physical performance and reduced quality of life have been observed in long-term survivors of childhood leukemia and lymphoma (mean age, 28 years) with osteonecrosis.[63]
  • Surgical procedures, including core decompression, osteotomy, and joint replacements, are sometimes performed in patients with persistently severe symptoms.[62]

Factors that increase the risk of osteonecrosis include the following:

Exposure to corticosteroids and, possibly, methotrexate and concurrent asparaginase

  • The most important treatment factor associated with the development of osteonecrosis is prolonged exposure to corticosteroids, which is typical in treatment regimens used for ALL, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and HSCT.[54,57,58,64,65]
  • Osteonecrosis risk may be related to type of corticosteroid, with some studies in patients with ALL indicating increased risk with the use of dexamethasone compared with prednisone.[66,67]
  • Corticosteroid dosing schedule also appears to impact the risk of developing osteonecrosis. In the Children’s Oncology Group (COG)-1961 trial for newly diagnosed high-risk ALL, patients were randomly assigned to receive either continuous (daily) dexamethasone or an alternate-week schedule of dexamethasone during the delayed intensification phase; the alternate-week schedule was associated with a lower incidence of osteonecrosis.[51]
  • In addition to corticosteroids, exposure to methotrexate and concurrent asparaginase may contribute to the development of osteonecrosis.[68,69]

Development of thromboembolism during antileukemic therapy

  • In a retrospective review of 208 children treated for ALL, investigators at McMaster University reported a 5.21-fold (95% CI, 1.82–14.91) increased odds of osteonecrosis among children who experienced thromboembolism during antileukemic therapy than among those who did not have a thromboembolism, even after accounting for age and asparaginase exposure.[69]

HSCT conditioning and course

  • In a large case-control study that evaluated risk factors for osteonecrosis using data from the Center for International Blood and Marrow Transplant Research, lower risks of osteonecrosis were seen in patients with nonmalignant diseases and in those who had received reduced-intensity conditioning regimens for malignant diseases than were seen in patients receiving myeloablative regimens for malignant diseases.[70]
  • Several studies have reported an increased risk of osteonecrosis in association with chronic graft-versus-host disease (GVHD).[55,64,70]

Age at time of diagnosis or transplant

  • Several studies have demonstrated that age at diagnosis (or at time of transplant) is a significant independent predictor of osteonecrosis.[51,52,57,62,64,66,70]
  • Osteonecrosis is significantly more common in older children and adolescents than in younger children. In the COG-1961 trial for high-risk ALL, the 5-year cumulative incidence of symptomatic osteonecrosis was 1.0% for patients aged 1 to 9 years, 9.9% for patients aged 10 to 15 years, and 20% for patients aged 16 to 21 years (P < .0001).[51]

Race

  • Osteonecrosis occurs more frequently in white patients than in black patients.[65,71]

Genetic factors

  • Genetic factors influencing folate metabolism, glucocorticoid metabolism, and adipogenesis have been linked to excess risk of osteonecrosis among survivors.[65,72,73]
  • Two candidate gene studies indicate that children homozygous for a 28–base pair repeat within the 5’ untranslated region of the TYMS gene are at increased risk of osteonecrosis.[65,73] This gene is associated with folate production and replacement and is inhibited by methotrexate.
  • St. Jude Children's Research Hospital investigators observed an almost sixfold (odds ratio, 5.6; 95% confidence interval, 2.7–11.3) risk of osteonecrosis among survivors with polymorphism of the ACP1 gene, which regulates lipid levels and osteoblast differentiation.[56]
  • Genome-wide association studies have identified potential risk variants in BMP7, PROX1-AS1, GRID2 (children younger than 10 years), and GRIN3A, which are all associated with glucocorticoid receptor activity.[72,74]

Sex

  • Studies evaluating the influence of sex on the risk of osteonecrosis have yielded conflicting results, with some suggesting a higher incidence in females [59,62,71] that has not been confirmed by others.[50]

Osteochondroma

  • Osteochondromas are benign boney protrusions that can be spontaneous or associated with radiation therapy. They generally occur as a single lesion; however, multiple lesions may develop in the context of hereditary multiple osteochondromatosis.[75]
  • Growth hormone therapy may influence the onset and pace of growth of osteochondromas.[14,76]
  • Because malignant degeneration of these lesions is exceptionally rare, clinical rather than radiological follow-up is most appropriate.[77]
  • Surgical resection is only necessary when the lesion interferes with joint alignment and movement.[78]

Evidence (risk of osteochondroma):

  1. Approximately 5% of children undergoing myeloablative HSCT will develop osteochondroma, which most commonly presents in the metaphyseal regions of long bones.[75,79]
  2. A large Italian study reported a 6.1% cumulative risk of developing osteochondroma at 15 years posttransplant, with increased risk associated with younger age at transplant (≤3 years) and use of TBI.[80]
  3. Osteochondromas have been reported in patients with neuroblastoma who received local radiation therapy, anti-GD2 monoclonal antibody therapy, and isotretinoin. [81]
    • Osteochondromas occurred at a median of 8.2 years from diagnosis, and the cumulative incidence rate was 4.9% at 10 years from diagnosis among 362 patients younger than 10 years.
    • In this series, most of the osteochondromas were unrelated to radiation and had features characteristic of benign developmental osteochondroma.
    • The pathogenic role for chemotherapy, anti-GD2 monoclonal antibody therapy, or isotretinoin in the development of osteochondroma remains speculative.

Amputation and Limb-Sparing Surgery

Amputation and limb-sparing surgery prevent local recurrence of bone tumors by removal of all gross and microscopic disease. If optimally executed, both procedures accomplish an en bloc excision of tumor with a margin of normal uninvolved tissue.

  • The type of surgical procedure, the primary tumor site, and the age of the patient affect the risk of postsurgical complications.[82]
  • Complications in survivors treated with amputation include prosthetic fit problems, chronic pain in the residual limb, phantom limb pain, and bone overgrowth.[82,83]
  • While limb-sparing surgeries may offer a more aesthetically pleasing outcome, complications have been reported more frequently in survivors who underwent these procedures than in those treated with amputation.
  • Complications after limb-sparing surgery include nonunion, pathologic fracture, aseptic loosening, limb-length discrepancy, endoprosthetic fracture, and limited joint range of motion.[82,84]
  • Occasionally, refractory complications develop after limb-sparing surgery and require amputation.[85,86]

A number of studies have compared functional outcomes after amputation and limb-sparing surgery, but results have been limited by inconsistent methods of functional assessment and small cohort sizes.

  • Overall, data suggest that limb-sparing surgery results in better function than amputation, but differences are relatively modest.[82,86,87]
  • Similarly, long-term quality-of-life outcomes among survivors undergoing amputation and limb sparing procedures have not differed substantially.[85]
  • A longitudinal analysis of health status among extremity sarcoma survivors in the CCSS indicates an association between lower extremity amputation and increasing activity limitations with age, and an association between upper extremity amputation and lower educational attainment.[88]

Joint Contractures

HSCT with any history of chronic GVHD is associated with joint contractures.[89-91]

Table 13 summarizes bone and joint late effects and the related health screenings.

Table 13. Bone and Joint Late Effectsa
Predisposing TherapyMusculoskeletal EffectsHealth Screening
CT = computed tomography; DXA = dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry; GVHD = graft-versus-host disease; HSCT = hematopoietic stem cell transplantation.
aAdapted from the Children's Oncology Group Long-Term Follow-Up Guidelines for Survivors of Childhood, Adolescent, and Young Adult Cancers.
Radiation exposing musculoskeletal system Hypoplasia; fibrosis; reduced/uneven growth (scoliosis, kyphosis); limb length discrepancyExam: bones and soft tissues in radiation fields
Radiation exposing head and neck Craniofacial abnormalitiesHistory: psychosocial assessment, with attention to: educational and/or vocational progress, depression, anxiety, posttraumatic stress, social withdrawal
Head and neck exam
Radiation exposing musculoskeletal system Radiation-induced fractureExam of affected bone
Methotrexate; corticosteroids (dexamethasone, prednisone); radiation exposing skeletal structures; HSCTReduced bone mineral densityBone mineral density test (DXA or quantitative CT)
Corticosteroids (dexamethasone, prednisone) OsteonecrosisHistory: joint pain, swelling, immobility, limited range of motion
Musculoskeletal exam
Radiation with exposure to oral cavity OsteoradionecrosisHistory/oral exam: impaired or delayed healing after dental work, persistent jaw pain or swelling, trismus
Amputation Amputation-related complications (impaired cosmesis, functional/activity limitations, residual limb integrity, chronic pain, increased energy expenditure)History: pain, functional/activity limitations
Exam: residual limb integrity
Prosthetic evaluation
Limb-sparing surgery Limb-sparing surgical complications (functional/activity limitations, fibrosis, contractures, chronic infection, chronic pain, limb length discrepancy, increased energy expenditure, prosthetic malfunction [loosening, non-union, fracture]) History: pain, functional/activity limitations
Exam: residual limb integrity
Radiograph of affected limb
Orthopedic evaluation
HSCT with any history of chronic GVHD Joint contractureMusculoskeletal exam

Refer to the Children's Oncology Group Long-Term Follow-Up Guidelines for Survivors of Childhood, Adolescent, and Young Adult Cancers for musculoskeletal system late effects information, including risk factors, evaluation, and health counseling.

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  51. Mattano LA, Devidas M, Nachman JB, et al.: Effect of alternate-week versus continuous dexamethasone scheduling on the risk of osteonecrosis in paediatric patients with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia: results from the CCG-1961 randomised cohort trial. Lancet Oncol 13 (9): 906-15, 2012. [PUBMED Abstract]
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  53. Karimova EJ, Rai SN, Howard SC, et al.: Femoral head osteonecrosis in pediatric and young adult patients with leukemia or lymphoma. J Clin Oncol 25 (12): 1525-31, 2007. [PUBMED Abstract]
  54. Karimova EJ, Wozniak A, Wu J, et al.: How does osteonecrosis about the knee progress in young patients with leukemia?: a 2- to 7-year study. Clin Orthop Relat Res 468 (9): 2454-9, 2010. [PUBMED Abstract]
  55. Campbell S, Sun CL, Kurian S, et al.: Predictors of avascular necrosis of bone in long-term survivors of hematopoietic cell transplantation. Cancer 115 (18): 4127-35, 2009. [PUBMED Abstract]
  56. Kawedia JD, Kaste SC, Pei D, et al.: Pharmacokinetic, pharmacodynamic, and pharmacogenetic determinants of osteonecrosis in children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Blood 117 (8): 2340-7; quiz 2556, 2011. [PUBMED Abstract]
  57. Girard P, Auquier P, Barlogis V, et al.: Symptomatic osteonecrosis in childhood leukemia survivors: prevalence, risk factors and impact on quality of life in adulthood. Haematologica 98 (7): 1089-97, 2013. [PUBMED Abstract]
  58. Ali N, Gohar S, Zaky I, et al.: Osteonecrosis in children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia: A report from Children's Cancer Hospital Egypt (CCHE). Pediatr Blood Cancer 66 (1): e27440, 2019. [PUBMED Abstract]
  59. Aricò M, Boccalatte MF, Silvestri D, et al.: Osteonecrosis: An emerging complication of intensive chemotherapy for childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Haematologica 88 (7): 747-53, 2003. [PUBMED Abstract]
  60. Ribeiro RC, Fletcher BD, Kennedy W, et al.: Magnetic resonance imaging detection of avascular necrosis of the bone in children receiving intensive prednisone therapy for acute lymphoblastic leukemia or non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Leukemia 15 (6): 891-7, 2001. [PUBMED Abstract]
  61. Padhye B, Dalla-Pozza L, Little D, et al.: Incidence and outcome of osteonecrosis in children and adolescents after intensive therapy for acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). Cancer Med 5 (5): 960-7, 2016. [PUBMED Abstract]
  62. te Winkel ML, Pieters R, Hop WC, et al.: Prospective study on incidence, risk factors, and long-term outcome of osteonecrosis in pediatric acute lymphoblastic leukemia. J Clin Oncol 29 (31): 4143-50, 2011. [PUBMED Abstract]
  63. DeFeo BM, Kaste SC, Li Z, et al.: Long-Term Functional Outcomes Among Childhood Survivors of Cancer Who Have a History of Osteonecrosis. Phys Ther 100 (3): 509-522, 2020. [PUBMED Abstract]
  64. Faraci M, Calevo MG, Lanino E, et al.: Osteonecrosis after allogeneic stem cell transplantation in childhood. A case-control study in Italy. Haematologica 91 (8): 1096-9, 2006. [PUBMED Abstract]
  65. Relling MV, Yang W, Das S, et al.: Pharmacogenetic risk factors for osteonecrosis of the hip among children with leukemia. J Clin Oncol 22 (19): 3930-6, 2004. [PUBMED Abstract]
  66. Vrooman LM, Stevenson KE, Supko JG, et al.: Postinduction dexamethasone and individualized dosing of Escherichia Coli L-asparaginase each improve outcome of children and adolescents with newly diagnosed acute lymphoblastic leukemia: results from a randomized study--Dana-Farber Cancer Institute ALL Consortium Protocol 00-01. J Clin Oncol 31 (9): 1202-10, 2013. [PUBMED Abstract]
  67. Hyakuna N, Shimomura Y, Watanabe A, et al.: Assessment of corticosteroid-induced osteonecrosis in children undergoing chemotherapy for acute lymphoblastic leukemia: a report from the Japanese Childhood Cancer and Leukemia Study Group. J Pediatr Hematol Oncol 36 (1): 22-9, 2014. [PUBMED Abstract]
  68. Yang L, Panetta JC, Cai X, et al.: Asparaginase may influence dexamethasone pharmacokinetics in acute lymphoblastic leukemia. J Clin Oncol 26 (12): 1932-9, 2008. [PUBMED Abstract]
  69. Badhiwala JH, Nayiager T, Athale UH: The development of thromboembolism may increase the risk of osteonecrosis in children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Pediatr Blood Cancer 62 (10): 1851-4, 2015. [PUBMED Abstract]
  70. Li X, Brazauskas R, Wang Z, et al.: Avascular necrosis of bone after allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation in children and adolescents. Biol Blood Marrow Transplant 20 (4): 587-92, 2014. [PUBMED Abstract]
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  72. Karol SE, Mattano LA, Yang W, et al.: Genetic risk factors for the development of osteonecrosis in children under age 10 treated for acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Blood 127 (5): 558-64, 2016. [PUBMED Abstract]
  73. Finkelstein Y, Blonquist TM, Vijayanathan V, et al.: A thymidylate synthase polymorphism is associated with increased risk for bone toxicity among children treated for acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Pediatr Blood Cancer 64 (7): , 2017. [PUBMED Abstract]
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  76. Bordigoni P, Turello R, Clement L, et al.: Osteochondroma after pediatric hematopoietic stem cell transplantation: report of eight cases. Bone Marrow Transplant 29 (7): 611-4, 2002. [PUBMED Abstract]
  77. Taitz J, Cohn RJ, White L, et al.: Osteochondroma after total body irradiation: an age-related complication. Pediatr Blood Cancer 42 (3): 225-9, 2004. [PUBMED Abstract]
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Late Effects of the Reproductive System

Surgery, radiation therapy, or chemotherapy that negatively affects any component of the hypothalamic-pituitary axis or gonads may compromise reproductive outcomes in childhood cancer survivors. Evidence for this outcome in childhood cancer survivors is limited by studies characterized by small sample size, cohort selection and participation bias, cross-sectional assessment, heterogeneity in treatment approach, time since treatment, and method of ascertainment. In particular, the literature is deficient regarding hard outcomes of reproductive potential (e.g., semen analysis in men, primordial follicle count in women) and outcomes after contemporary risk-adapted treatment approaches.[1,2]

The risk of infertility is generally related to the tissues or organs involved by the cancer and the specific type, dose, and combination of cytotoxic therapy.

  • Orchiectomy or oophorectomy performed for the management of pediatric germ cell tumors may reduce germ cell numbers.
  • Alkylating agents and similar DNA interstrand cross-linking agents used in the treatment of pediatric cancers are the primary chemotherapeutic agents associated with a high risk of infertility. Factors influencing the risk of gonadal injury in children treated with alkylating agent chemotherapy include the following:
    • Cumulative dose.

      Earlier studies used the alkylating agent dose to define dose levels associated with the risk of gonadal toxicity within a specific study cohort. Childhood Cancer Survivor Study (CCSS) investigators developed the cyclophosphamide equivalent dose, which is a metric for normalization of the cumulative doses of various alkylating agents that is independent of the study population. The alkylating agent dose and cyclophosphamide equivalent dose perform similarly when used in several models for different survivor outcomes that include treatment exposures, but only the cyclophosphamide equivalent dose permits comparison across variably treated cohorts. Investigations that evaluate risk factors for gonadal toxicity vary in the use of cumulative doses based on individual alkylating agents, the alkylating agent dose, and the cyclophosphamide equivalent dose.[3]

    • The specific alkylating agent.
    • The length of treatment.
    • Age at treatment.
    • Sex.
  • The risk of radiation injury to the hypothalamic-pituitary axis or gonads is related to the treatment volume, total dose, fractionation schedule, and age at treatment.

In addition to anticancer therapy, age at treatment, and sex, it is likely that genetic factors influence the risk of permanent infertility. It should be noted that pediatric cancer treatment protocols often prescribe combined-modality therapy; thus, the additive effects of gonadotoxic exposures may need to be considered in assessing reproductive potential. Detailed information about the specific cancer treatment modalities including specific surgical procedures, the type and cumulative doses of chemotherapeutic agents, and radiation treatment volumes and doses are needed to estimate risks for gonadal dysfunction and infertility.

It should be noted that treatment-indicated risk of infertility does not simply translate into adult fertility status. This is particularly important for patients who were unable to participate in sperm/oocyte preservation because of their young age when diagnosed and treated for cancer.

  • In a study of survivors from a St. Jude Lifetime cohort (N = 1,067), most adult survivors of childhood cancer (61.9%) considered themselves at risk of infertility, which was significantly associated with sociodemographic factors (older age, white ethnicity, being married/partnered, higher education), gonadotoxic treatment, fertility concerns, previous unsuccessful attempts to conceive, and sexual dysfunction (all P < .05).[4]
    • Risk perceptions were often discordant from laboratory-evaluated gonadal functioning. Laboratory-evaluated impaired gonadal function was found in 24% of female survivors and 56% of male survivors, but concordance with survivors’ risk perceptions was low. Most survivors with discordant perceptions overestimated risk (20% of male and 44% of female survivors).
    • Survivors who are at risk—such as those who show initial signs of fertility problems, and/or those who are experiencing fertility-related uncertainties, worries, or distress—should be offered fertility testing.

Testis

Cancer treatments that may impair testicular and reproductive function include the following:

Surgery affecting testicular function

Patients who undergo unilateral orchiectomy for testicular torsion may have subnormal sperm counts at long-term follow-up.[5,6]

  • Retrograde ejaculation is a frequent complication of bilateral retroperitoneal lymph node dissection performed on males with testicular neoplasms.[7,8]
  • Erectile dysfunction may occur after extensive pelvic dissections to remove a rhabdomyosarcoma of the prostate.[9,10]

Radiation affecting testicular function

Among men treated for childhood cancer, the potential for gonadal injury exists if radiation treatment fields include the pelvis, gonads, or total body.

  • The germinal epithelium is more sensitive to radiation injury than are the androgen-producing Leydig cells.
  • A decrease in sperm counts can be seen 3 to 6 weeks after such irradiation, and depending on the dosage, recovery may take 1 to more than 3 years.[11]
  • The germinal epithelium is damaged by much lower dosages (<1 Gy) of radiation than are Leydig cells (20–30 Gy).[11]
  • Irreversible germ cell failure may occur with fractionated radiation doses of greater than 2 Gy to 4 Gy.[11]
  • Administration of higher radiation doses, such as 24 Gy, which was used for the treatment of testicular relapse of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), results in both germ cell failure and Leydig cell dysfunction.[12]

Radiation injury to Leydig cells is related to the dose delivered and age at treatment.

  • Testosterone production may be normal in prepubertal boys treated with less than 12 Gy fractionated testicular irradiation, but elevated plasma concentrations of luteinizing hormone observed in this group suggest subclinical injury.[13]
  • Leydig cell failure typically results when prepubertal boys are treated with more than 20 Gy of radiation to the testes; androgen therapy is required for masculinization.[13]
  • Leydig cell function is usually preserved in sexually mature male patients if radiation doses do not exceed 30 Gy.[13]
  • Although available data suggest that Leydig cells are more vulnerable when exposed to radiation before puberty, confounding factors, such as the age at testing and the effects of both orchiectomy and chemotherapy, limit the reliability of this observation.[13]

Chemotherapy affecting testicular function

Cumulative alkylating agent (e.g., cyclophosphamide, mechlorethamine, dacarbazine) dose is an important factor in estimating the risk of testicular germ cell injury, but limited data are available that correlate results of semen analyses in clinically well-characterized cohorts.[14]

  • In general, Leydig cell function is preserved, but germ cell failure is common in men treated with high cumulative doses of cyclophosphamide (7,500 mg/m2 or more) and more than 3 months of combination alkylating agent therapy.
  • Most studies suggest that prepubertal males are not at lower risk of chemotherapy-induced testicular damage than are postpubertal patients.[15-18]

Studies of testicular germ cell injury, as evidenced by oligospermia or azoospermia, after alkylating agent administration with or without radiation therapy, have reported the following:

  • Cyclophosphamide:
    • Male survivors of non-Hodgkin lymphoma who received a cumulative cyclophosphamide dose of greater than 9.5 g/m2 and underwent pelvic radiation therapy were at increased risk for failure to recover spermatogenesis.[19]
    • In survivors of Ewing sarcoma and soft tissue sarcoma, treatment with a cumulative cyclophosphamide dose of greater than 7.5 g/m2 was correlated with persistent oligospermia or azoospermia.[20]
    • Cyclophosphamide doses exceeding 7.5 g/m2 and ifosfamide doses exceeding 60 g/m2 produced oligospermia or azoospermia in most exposed individuals.[21-23]
    • A small cohort study reported normal semen quality in adult long-term survivors of childhood ALL treated with 0 to 10 g/m2 of cyclophosphamide and cranial irradiation, whereas no spermatozoa were detected in semen samples from survivors treated with more than 20 g/m2 of cyclophosphamide.[24]
    • Treatment with a cyclophosphamide equivalent dose of less than 4 g/m2 results in infrequent azoospermia or oligospermia, with 88.6% of 31 men treated being normospermic.[25]
    • Spermatogenesis was present in 67% of 15 men who received 200 mg/kg of cyclophosphamide before undergoing HSCT for aplastic anemia.[26]
  • Dacarbazine:
    • The combination of doxorubicin, bleomycin, vinblastine, and dacarbazine (ABVD) produced oligospermia or azoospermia in adults frequently during the course of treatment. However, recovery of spermatogenesis occurred after treatment was completed, in contrast to the experience reported after treatment with mechlorethamine, vincristine, procarbazine, and prednisone (MOPP).[27]
  • Alkylating agent plus procarbazine:
    • Most studies suggest that combination chemotherapy with an alkylating agent and procarbazine causes severe damage to the testicular germinal epithelium that is irreversible at high cumulative doses.[15,28-31]
    • Azoospermia occurred less frequently in adults after treatment with two, rather than six, cycles of MOPP.[32]
    • Elevation of the basal follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) level, which may reflect impaired spermatogenesis, was less frequent among patients receiving two courses of vincristine, procarbazine, prednisone, and doxorubicin (OPPA) than among those who received two courses of OPPA in combination with two or more courses of cyclophosphamide, vincristine, procarbazine and prednisone (COPP).[33]
  • Alkylating agents plus low-dose cranial radiation:
    • In a cross-sectional study that included male adult survivors of pediatric ALL who had received alkylating agent chemotherapy with or without cranial radiation, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital investigators demonstrated that cranial radiation at doses lower than 26 Gy has no demonstrable independent effect on spermatogenesis.[34]

Testicular function after hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT)

The risk of gonadal dysfunction and infertility related to conditioning with total-body irradiation (TBI), high-dose alkylating agent chemotherapy, or both is substantial. Because transplantation is often undertaken for relapsed or refractory cancer, previous treatment with alkylating agent chemotherapy or hypothalamic-pituitary axis or gonadal radiation therapy may confer additional risks.

  • Age at treatment also influences the risk of gonadal injury. Young boys and adolescents treated with high-dose cyclophosphamide (200 mg/kg) will generally maintain Leydig cell function and testosterone production, but germ cell failure is common.[35]
  • After TBI conditioning, most male patients retain their ability to produce testosterone but will experience germ cell failure.[35]
  • Limited data suggest that a greater proportion of boys will retain germinal function or recovery of spermatogenesis (based on pubertal progress and gonadotropin levels) after reduced-intensity conditioning with fludarabine/melphalan than will those treated with myeloablative conditioning with busulfan/cyclophosphamide.[36]

Recovery of gonadal function

Recovery of gonadal function after cytotoxic chemotherapy and radiation therapy is possible. Dutch investigators used inhibin B as a surrogate marker of gonadal function in a cross-sectional, retrospective study of 201 male survivors of childhood cancer, with a median follow-up of 15.7 years (range, 3–37 years) from diagnosis. The median inhibin B level among the cohort increased based on serial measurements performed over a median of 3.3 years (range, 0.7–11.3 years). The probability of recovery of the serum inhibin B level was significantly influenced by baseline inhibin B level, but not age at diagnosis, age at study evaluation, interval between discontinuation of treatment and study evaluation, gonadal irradiation, and alkylating agent dose score. These results suggest that recovery can occur but not if inhibin B is already at a critically low level.[37]

Inhibin B and FSH levels are correlated with sperm concentration and often used to estimate the presence of spermatogenesis; however, limitations in the specificity and positive predictive value of these tests have been reported.[37,38] Hence, male survivors should be advised that semen analysis is the most accurate assessment of adequacy of spermatogenesis.

Leydig cell function in long-term survivors of childhood cancer

Leydig cell function in childhood cancer survivors has not been well studied. St. Jude Lifetime Cohort investigators evaluated the prevalence of and risk factors for Leydig cell failure and Leydig cell dysfunction in 1,516 men (median age, 30.8 years; median time from diagnosis, 22 years).[39]

  • The prevalence of Leydig cell failure (defined as testosterone <250 ng/dL and luteinizing hormone >9.85 IU/L) was 6.9%.
  • The prevalence of Leydig cell dysfunction (defined as testosterone ≥250 ng/dL and luteinizing hormone >9.85 IU/L) was 14.7%.
  • Independent risk factors for Leydig cell failure included attained age of 26 years or older at assessment, testicular radiation therapy at any dose, and alkylating agents at cyclophosphamide equivalent doses of 4,000 mg/m2 or higher.
  • Unilateral orchiectomy and similar risk factors for Leydig cell failure were associated with Leydig cell dysfunction.
  • The risk of Leydig cell failure and dysfunction increased with older age, higher radiation doses, and increased alkylating agent exposure.
  • Adverse outcomes significantly associated with Leydig cell failure (but not Leydig cell dysfunction) included abdominal obesity, diabetes mellitus, erectile dysfunction, muscle weakness, and all-cause mortality.

Ovary

Cancer treatments that may impair ovarian function/reserve include the following:

Surgery affecting ovarian function

Oophorectomy performed for the management of germ cell tumors may reduce ovarian reserve. Contemporary treatments utilize fertility-sparing surgical procedures combined with systemic chemotherapy to reduce this risk.[40]

Radiation affecting ovarian function

In women treated for childhood cancer, the potential for primary gonadal injury exists if treatment fields involve the lumbosacral spine, abdomen, pelvis, or total body. The frequency of ovarian failure after abdominal radiation therapy is related to both the age of the woman at the time of irradiation and the radiation therapy dose received by the ovaries. The ovaries of younger individuals are more resistant to radiation damage than are those of older women because of their greater complement of primordial follicles.

Whole-abdomen irradiation at doses of 20 Gy or higher is associated with the greatest risk of ovarian dysfunction. Seventy-one percent of women in one series failed to enter puberty, and 26% had premature menopause after receiving whole-abdominal radiation therapy doses of 20 Gy to 30 Gy.[41] Other studies reported similar results in women treated with whole-abdomen irradiation [42] or craniospinal irradiation [43,44] during childhood.

Chemotherapy affecting ovarian function

Ovarian function may be impaired after treatment with combination chemotherapy that includes an alkylating agent and procarbazine. In general, girls maintain gonadal function at higher cumulative alkylating agent doses than do boys. Most female childhood cancer survivors who are treated with risk-adapted combination chemotherapy retain or recover ovarian function. However, the risk of acute ovarian failure and premature menopause is substantial if treatment includes combined-modality therapy with alkylating agent chemotherapy and abdominal or pelvic radiation therapy or dose-intensive alkylating agents for myeloablative conditioning before HSCT.[45-49]

Premature ovarian failure

Premature ovarian failure is well documented in childhood cancer survivors, especially in women treated with both an alkylating agent and abdominal radiation therapy.[45,49-51]

Studies have associated the following factors with an increased rate of premature ovarian failure (acute ovarian failure and premature menopause):

  • Age at the time of treatment and attained age.
  • Increasing doses of abdominal-pelvic radiation therapy.
  • Exposure to alkylating agents and/or procarbazine.
  • Oophorectomy.

The presence of apparently normal ovarian function at the completion of chemotherapy should not be interpreted as evidence that no ovarian injury has occurred.

Evidence (excess risk of premature ovarian insufficiency after chemotherapy and radiation):

  1. Of 3,390 eligible participants in the CCSS, 215 (6.3%) developed acute ovarian failure (defined as never having menses or ceased having menses within 5 years of diagnosis).[46]
    • Survivors with acute ovarian failure were older (aged 13–20 years vs. aged 0–12 years) at cancer diagnosis and more likely to have been diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma or to have received abdominal or pelvic radiation therapy than were survivors without acute ovarian failure.
    • Of survivors who developed acute ovarian failure, 75% had received abdominal-pelvic radiation therapy. Radiation doses to the ovary of at least 20 Gy were associated with the highest rate of acute ovarian failure, with over 70% of such patients developing acute ovarian failure.
    • In a multivariable logistic regression model, increasing doses of ovarian radiation, exposure to procarbazine at any age, and exposure to cyclophosphamide at ages 13 to 20 years were independent risk factors for acute ovarian failure.
  2. The menopausal status of 2,930 survivors participating in the CCSS was compared with that of 1,399 siblings. Nonsurgical premature menopause was defined as sustained menses cessation occurring for more than 6 months beginning 5 years after the cancer diagnosis but before age 40 years that was not caused by pregnancy, surgery, or medications.[49]
    • In 110 survivors who developed nonsurgical premature menopause, the prevalence was 9.1% at age 40 years in a population with a median age of 34 years.
    • In multivariable analyses, significant independent risk factors for the development of nonsurgical premature menopause were exposure to a dose of procarbazine greater than 4,000 mg/m2 (odds ratio [OR], 8.96; 95% confidence interval [CI], 5.02–16.00 [P < .0001]), any dose of radiation therapy to the ovaries (OR, 2.73 [95% CI, 1.33–5.61; P = .0062] for a dose of less than 5 Gy and OR, 8.02 [95% CI, 2.81–22.85; P < .0001] for a dose of greater than 5 Gy), and receipt of HSCT (OR, 6.35; 95% CI, 1.19–33.93 [P = .0307]).
    • A cyclophosphamide equivalent dose of 6,000 mg/m2 or higher that included procarbazine was significant in the univariate analysis, but did not achieve significance in the multivariable analysis.
    • For survivors who received more than 4,000 mg/m2 of procarbazine, the prevalence of nonsurgical premature menopause at age 40 years was 39.7%, compared with 4.2% among those who did not receive any procarbazine (P < .0001).
    • Radiation exposure to the ovaries of greater than 5 Gy resulted in a prevalence of nonsurgical premature menopause at age 40 years of 24.1%, compared with a prevalence of 3.0% in those who did not receive radiation (P < .0001).
    • Cyclophosphamide exposure (at any dose), unilateral oophorectomy, smoking status, and body mass index (BMI) were not found to be significant for the risk of nonsurgical premature menopause.
    • Compared with survivors who did not develop nonsurgical premature menopause, those who developed nonsurgical premature menopause were less likely to ever be pregnant or to have a live birth between the ages of 31 and 40 years. There was no difference in the pregnancy and live birth rates before the age of 30 years for survivors who ultimately developed nonsurgical premature menopause and those who do not.
  3. A French cohort study of 1,109 female survivors of childhood solid cancer identified the risk factors for nonsurgical menopause, which included treatment with alkylating agents, radiation exposing the ovaries, and oophorectomy.[51]
    • Women treated with alkylating agents after the onset of puberty, either alone (relative risk [RR], 9.0; 95% CI, 2.7–28.0; P = .0003) or associated with even a low dose of radiation to the ovaries (RR, 29; 95% CI, 8–108; P < .0001), had the highest risk ratio for nonsurgical menopause.
    • The overall rate of nonsurgical menopause by age 40 years was only 2.1% and substantially lower than the CCSS and European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer cohort studies that include survivors of hematological malignancies.
    • Unilateral oophorectomy was associated with a 7-year-earlier age at menopause.
  4. European survivors of Hodgkin lymphoma treated between the ages 15 years and 40 years and who were not receiving hormonal contraceptives were surveyed for the occurrence of premature ovarian failure.[50]
    • In 460 women, premature ovarian failure was mainly influenced by alkylating chemotherapy use with a linear dose relationship between alkylating chemotherapy and premature ovarian failure occurrence.
    • Premature ovarian failure risk increased by 23% per year of age at treatment. In women treated without alkylating chemotherapy before age 32 years and at age 32 years or older, cumulative premature ovarian failure risks were 3% and 9%, respectively.
    • If menstruation returned after treatment, cumulative premature ovarian failure risk was independent of age at treatment.
    • Among women who ultimately developed premature ovarian failure, 22% had one or more children after treatment, compared with 41% of women without premature ovarian failure who had one or more children after treatment.
    • This report indicates that women with proven fertility after treatment can still face infertility problems at a later stage.
  5. St. Jude Lifetime Cohort investigators evaluated the prevalence of and risk factors for premature ovarian insufficiency in 921 female childhood cancer survivor participants. Premature ovarian insufficiency was clinically assessed and defined by persistent amenorrhea combined with an FSH level of 30 IU/L or higher before age 40 years.[52]
    • The prevalence of premature ovarian insufficiency was 10.9% among women who were a median age of 31.7 years at study assessment and a median 24 years from cancer diagnosis.
    • Independent risk factors for premature ovarian insufficiency included ovarian radiation therapy at any dose and cyclophosphamide equivalent dose of 8,000 mg/m2 or higher.
    • Obesity (BMI of 30 kg/m2 or higher) at assessment was associated with a lower risk of premature ovarian insufficiency (HR, 0.36).
    • Survivors with premature ovarian insufficiency had increased odds of low bone mineral density (OR, 5.07) and frailty (OR, 3.5) than did those without premature ovarian insufficiency.

Ovarian function after HSCT

The preservation of ovarian function among women treated with HSCT is related to age at treatment, receipt of pretransplant alkylating agent chemotherapy and abdominal-pelvic radiation therapy, and transplant conditioning regimen.[47,53]

Evidence (excess risk of premature ovarian insufficiency after HSCT):

  1. Girls and young women conditioned with TBI or busulfan-based regimens appear to be at equally high risk of declining ovarian function and premature menopause compared with patients conditioned with cyclophosphamide only.[47] All women who received high-dose (50 mg/kg/day x 4 days) cyclophosphamide before HSCT for aplastic anemia developed amenorrhea after transplantation.
  2. In another series, 36 of 43 women with aplastic anemia conditioned with cyclophosphamide (200 mg/kg) had recovery of normal ovarian function 3 to 42 months after transplantation, including all of the 27 patients who were between ages 13 and 25 years at the time of HSCT.[48]
  3. TBI is especially damaging when given in a single fraction.[47] Most postpubertal women who receive TBI before HSCT develop amenorrhea.
  4. In one series, recovery of normal ovarian function occurred in only 9 of 144 patients and was highly correlated with age at time of radiation therapy in patients younger than 25 years.[48]
  5. Among women with leukemia, cranial irradiation before transplantation further decreased the possibility of retaining ovarian function.[47]
  6. Ovarian function may be better preserved (based on pubertal progress and gonadotropin levels) in females undergoing HSCT with reduced-intensity conditioning using fludarabine/melphalan than in those undergoing conditioning with myeloablative busulfan/cyclophosphamide.[36]

Predicting premature ovarian failure

Data from 5,886 (median follow-up, 23.9 years) CCSS and 875 (median follow-up, 23.9 years) St. Jude Lifetime Cohort Study (SJLIFE) participants were used to develop and validate risk prediction tools for acute ovarian failure.[54]

  • Acute ovarian failure, defined as permanent loss of ovarian function within 5 years of cancer diagnosis, occurred in 6.0% of CCSS female participants and 5.7% of SJLIFE female participants.
  • Models were developed using either prescribed abdominal and pelvic radiation doses or ovarian dose model with ovarian radiation dosimetry from the CCSS cohort and validated in the SJLIFE cohort with good performance characteristics.
  • Common predictors in both models were history of HSCT, cumulative alkylating drug dose, and an interaction between age at cancer diagnosis and HSCT.
  • The online calculator is available on the CCSS website.

Fertility

Infertility remains one of the most common life-altering treatment effects experienced by long-term childhood survivors. Pediatric cancer cohort studies have demonstrated the impact of cytotoxic therapy on reproductive outcomes. CCSS investigations have elucidated factors contributing to subfertility among childhood cancer survivors.[55,56]

Evidence (excess risk of impaired fertility):

  1. Fertility was evaluated in 10,938 CCSS participants (5,640 males, 5,298 females) and 3,949 siblings.[55]
    • At a median follow-up of 8 years from cohort entry, 38% of survivors reported having or siring a pregnancy, resulting in at least one live birth in 83% of those survivors.
    • Among siblings monitored for a median of 10 years, 62% reported having or siring a pregnancy, resulting in at least one live birth in 90% of those siblings.
    • Multivariable analysis confirmed that survivors had significantly decreased likelihood of siring or having a pregnancy (hazard ratio [HR], 0.63 in males and 0.87 in females) or of having a live birth (HR, 0.63 in males and 0.82 in females) than did siblings.
    • Greater doses of alkylating drugs (HR, 0.82 per 5,000 mg/m2 increments) and cisplatin reduced the likelihood of siring pregnancy among male survivors, but only busulfan and higher doses (>411 mg/m2) of lomustine significantly reduced pregnancy among females.
    • The risk of reduced likelihood of pregnancy in women was observed only at the highest cyclophosphamide equivalent dose (HR, 0.85 for upper quartile [≥11,295 mg/m2] vs. no exposure).
    • HRs (95% CIs) for the likelihood of reporting first pregnancy by cyclophosphamide equivalent dose for male and female survivors are summarized in Table 14:
      Table 14. Cyclophosphamide Equivalent Dose by Tertile and Sex
      Cyclophosphamide Equivalent Dose by TertileMaleFemale
       HR (95% CI)P ValueHR (95% CI)P Value
      CI = confidence interval; HR = hazard ratio.
      Lower (<4,897 mg/m2) 1.14 (1.00–1.30).0450.97 (0.86–1.08).55
      Middle (4,897–9,638 mg/m2) 0.79 (0.68–0.91).00100.98 (0.87–1.11).76
      Upper (≥9,639 mg/m2) 0.55 (0.47–0.64)<.00010.90 (0.79–1.01).07
    • Similar relationships were observed for live birth outcomes.
  2. Fertility may be impaired by factors other than the absence of sperm and ova. Conception requires delivery of sperm to the uterine cervix, patency of the fallopian tubes for fertilization to occur, and appropriate conditions in the uterus for implantation.[7,8,57]
    • Retrograde ejaculation occurs with a significant frequency in men who undergo bilateral retroperitoneal lymph node dissection.[7,8]
    • Uterine structure may be affected by abdominal irradiation. A study demonstrated that uterine length was significantly shorter in ten women with ovarian failure who had been treated with whole-abdomen irradiation. Endometrial thickness did not increase in response to hormone replacement therapy in three women who underwent weekly ultrasound examination. No flow was detectable with Doppler ultrasound through either uterine artery of five women, and through one uterine artery in three additional women.[57]
  3. In a study of menopausal status on reproductive outcomes in 2,930 survivors from the CCSS, investigators found that for those who ultimately developed nonsurgical premature menopause, rates of pregnancy and live birth were substantially reduced before nonsurgical premature menopause between the ages of 31 and 40 years. However, pregnancy and live birth rates did not differ for those aged 21 to 30 years on the basis of ultimate menopausal status.[49]
    • Treatment variables significant for developing nonsurgical premature menopause by multivariable analyses included exposure to procarbazine doses higher than 4,000 mg/m2, any ovarian irradiation, and HSCT.
    • A cyclophosphamide equivalent dose of 6,000 mg/m2 or higher that included procarbazine was significant in the univariate analysis, but did not achieve significance in the multivariable analysis.

Reproduction

For survivors who maintain fertility, numerous investigations have evaluated the prevalence of and risk factors for pregnancy complications in adults treated for cancer during childhood. Pregnancy complications including hypertension, fetal malposition, fetal loss/spontaneous abortion, preterm labor, and low birth weight have been observed in association with specific diagnostic and treatment groups.[58-62]

Evidence (excess risk of pregnancy complications):

  1. In a study of 4,029 pregnancies among 1,915 women followed in the CCSS, there were 63% live births, 1% stillbirths, 15% miscarriages, 17% abortions, and 3% unknown or in gestation.[58]
    • Risk of miscarriage was 3.6-fold higher in women treated with craniospinal irradiation and 1.7-fold higher in those treated with pelvic irradiation. Chemotherapy exposure alone did not increase risk of miscarriage.
    • Survivors were less likely to have live births, more likely to have medical abortions, and more likely to have low-birth-weight babies than were siblings.
    • Disruption of normal uterine function after radiation therapy or other treatment that results in reduced uterine volume and impaired uterine blood flow appears to be the underlying pathophysiology for many of these adverse obstetrical events.[63]
  2. In the National Wilms Tumor Study, records were obtained for 1,021 pregnancies of more than 20 weeks duration. In this group, there were 955 single live births.[64]
    • Hypertension complicating pregnancy, early or threatened labor, malposition of the fetus, lower birth weight (<2,500 g), and premature delivery (<36 weeks) were more frequent among women who had received flank irradiation, in a dose-dependent manner.
  3. Another CCSS study evaluated pregnancy outcomes of partners of male survivors.[59]
    • Among 4,106 sexually active males, 1,227 reported they sired 2,323 pregnancies, which resulted in 69% live births, 13% miscarriages, 13% abortions, and 5% unknown or in gestation at the time of analysis.
    • Compared with partners of male siblings, there was a decreased incidence of live births (RR, 0.77), but no significant differences of pregnancy outcome by treatment.
  4. Results from a Danish study confirm the association of uterine irradiation with spontaneous abortion, but not other types of abortion. Thirty-four thousand pregnancies were evaluated in a population of 1,688 female survivors of childhood cancer in the Danish Cancer Registry. The pregnancy outcomes of survivors, 2,737 sisters, and 16,700 comparison women in the population were identified.[60]
    • No significant differences were seen between survivors and comparison women in the proportions of live births, stillbirths, or all types of abortions combined.
    • Survivors with a history of neuroendocrine or abdominal radiation therapy had an increased risk of spontaneous abortion.
    • Thus, the pregnancy outcomes of survivors were similar to those of comparison women with the exception of spontaneous abortion.
  5. In a retrospective cohort analysis from the CCSS of 1,148 men and 1,657 women who had survived cancer, there were 4,946 pregnancies.[61]
    • Irradiation of the testes in men and pituitary gland in women and chemotherapy with alkylating drugs were not associated with an increased risk of stillbirth or neonatal death.
    • Uterine and ovarian irradiation significantly increased the risk of stillbirth and neonatal death at doses higher than 10 Gy.
    • For girls treated before menarche, irradiation of the uterus and ovaries at doses as low as 1 Gy to 2.49 Gy significantly increased the risk of stillbirth or neonatal death.
  6. Most pregnancies reported by HSCT survivors and their partners result in live births.[62]
    • In female HSCT survivors who were exposed to TBI, there appears to be an increased risk of preterm delivery of low-birth-weight infants.
    • Female HSCT survivors are at higher risk of needing cesarean delivery than are the normal population (42% vs. 16%).
  7. Preservation of fertility and successful pregnancies may occur after HSCT, although the conditioning regimens that include TBI, cyclophosphamide, and busulfan are highly gonadotoxic. One study evaluated pregnancy outcomes in a group of females treated with HSCT.[65]
    • Among 708 women who were postpubertal at the time of transplant, 116 regained normal ovarian function and 32 became pregnant.
    • Among 82 women who were prepubertal at the time of transplant, 23 had normal ovarian function and nine became pregnant.
    • Of the 72 pregnancies in these 41 women, 16 occurred in those treated with TBI and 50% resulted in early termination.
    • Among the 56 pregnancies in women treated with cyclophosphamide without either TBI or busulfan, 21% resulted in early termination.
    • There were no pregnancies among the 73 women treated with busulfan and cyclophosphamide, and only one retained ovarian function.
  8. A German Pediatric Oncology Group study demonstrated that the rate of childbearing for female survivors of Hodgkin lymphoma was similar to that of the general population, although the rate of childbearing was lower for survivors who received pelvic radiation therapy.[66]
  9. British CCSS investigators evaluated pregnancy and labor complications among female survivors of childhood cancer treated with abdominal radiation by linking British CCSS cohort data to a national hospital registry.[67]
    • Survivors treated with abdominal radiation had a significantly higher risk (RR, 2.1) of pregnancy complications than did survivors who did not receive abdominal radiation.
    • Risks were elevated for hypertension complicating pregnancy among Wilms tumor survivors (RR, 3.29) treated with abdominal radiation and for gestational diabetes mellitus (RR, 3.35) and anemia (RR, 2.10) among all survivors treated with abdominal radiation.
  10. A systematic review compared the data from published pregnancy and child health outcomes for pediatric and young adult leukemia and lymphoma survivors with the data from controls who did not have a history of cancer.[68]
    • No higher risks of spontaneous abortions, maternal diabetes and anemia, stillbirth, birth defects, or childhood cancer in offspring were observed in survivors compared with controls.
    • Live birth rates were lower, while risks of preterm birth and low birth weight were modestly higher in survivors than in controls.

Fertility preservation

Progress in reproductive endocrinology has resulted in the availability of several options for preserving or permitting fertility in patients about to receive potentially toxic chemotherapy or radiation therapy.[69]

  • For males, cryopreservation of spermatozoa before treatment is an effective method to circumvent the sterilizing effect of therapy for all peripubertal and postpubertal males. Although pretreatment semen quality in patients with cancer has been shown to be less than that noted in healthy donors, the percentage decline in semen quality and the effect of cryodamage to spermatozoa from patients with cancer is similar to that of normal donors.[70,71]
  • For males unable to bank sperm, newer technologies such as testicular sperm extraction may be an option. Further micromanipulative technologic advances such as intracytoplasmic sperm injection and similar techniques may be able to render sperm extracted surgically, or even poor-quality cryopreserved spermatozoa from cancer patients, capable of successful fertilization.[72,73]
  • For females, the most successful assisted-reproductive techniques depend on harvesting and banking the postpubertal patient’s oocytes and cryopreserving unfertilized oocytes or embryos before gonadotoxic therapy.[74]
  • Established options for females include ovarian transposition, shielding from radiation, and oocyte/embryo cryopreservation. Ovarian tissue cryopreservation is currently considered experimental in the United States, but it is performed as an established fertility preservation procedure in parts of Europe and Israel.[75,76] Options for prepubertal female patients are limited to investigational ovarian tissue cryopreservation for later autotransplantation, which may be offered to girls with nonovarian, nonhematologic cancers.[77]

Offspring of childhood cancer survivors

For childhood cancer survivors who have offspring, there is concern about congenital anomalies, genetic disease, or risk of cancer in the offspring. Children of cancer survivors are not at significantly increased risk of congenital anomalies stemming from their parents' exposure to mutagenic cancer treatments.

Evidence (children of cancer survivors not at significantly increased risk of congenital anomalies):

  1. A retrospective cohort analysis of validated cases of congenital anomalies among 4,699 children of 1,128 male and 1,627 female participants of the CCSS observed the following:[78]
    • No significant associations between gonadal radiation therapy or cumulative exposure to alkylating agents and congenital anomalies in offspring.
  2. A study compared 2,198 offspring of adult survivors treated for childhood cancer between 1945 and 1975 with 4,544 offspring of sibling controls.[79]
    • There were no differences in the proportion of offspring with cytogenetic syndromes, single-gene defects, or simple malformations.
    • There was similarly no effect of type of childhood cancer treatment on the occurrence of genetic disease in the offspring.
  3. A population-based study of 2,630 live-born offspring of childhood cancer survivors versus 5,504 live-born offspring of the survivors' siblings found no differences in proportion of abnormal karyotypes or incidence of Down syndrome or Turner syndrome between survivor and sibling offspring.[80]

    In the same population-based cohort, survivors treated with abdominal radiation therapy and/or alkylating agents did not have an increased risk of offspring with genetic disease, compared with survivors not exposed to these agents.

  4. In a study of 5,847 offspring of survivors of childhood cancers treated in five Scandinavian countries, in the absence of a hereditary cancer syndrome (such as hereditary retinoblastoma), there was no increased risk of cancer.[81]
    • Data from the five-center study also indicated no excess risk of single-gene disorders, congenital malformations, or chromosomal syndromes among the offspring of former patients compared with the offspring of siblings.[82]
  5. In a study that evaluated pregnancy outcomes in 19,412 allogeneic and 17,950 autologous transplant patients, European Group for Blood and Marrow Transplantation investigators did not observe an increased risk of birth defects, developmental delay, or cancer among offspring of male and female HSCT recipients.[62]
  6. A nationwide Finnish population-based registry study compared the risk of congenital anomalies in the offspring of 6,862 long-term survivors of childhood, adolescent, and young adult cancer treated between 1953 and 2004 with the risk of congenital anomalies in the offspring of 35,690 siblings.[83]
    • The study did not find a significant excess risk of congenital anomalies among childhood and adolescent survivors (prevalence ratio [PR], 1.17; 95% CI, 0.92–1.49) and young adult survivors (PR, 1.17; 95% CI, 0.83–1.23) compared with siblings.
    • There was an association between parent cancer and congenital anomalies in the offspring of survivors who were diagnosed in the earlier decades (1955–1964: PR, 2.77; 95% CI, 1.26–6.11; and 1965–1974: PR, 1.55; 95% CI, 0.94–2.56).

Table 15 summarizes reproductive late effects and the related health screenings.

Table 15. Reproductive Late Effectsa
Predisposing Therapy Reproductive Late EffectsHealth Screening
AMH = anti-mullerian hormone; FSH = follicle-stimulating hormone; LH = luteinizing hormone.
aAdapted from the Children's Oncology Group Long-Term Follow-Up Guidelines for Survivors of Childhood, Adolescent, and Young Adult Cancers.
Alkylating agents; gonadal irradiation Testicular hormonal dysfunction: Testosterone deficiency/insufficiency; delayed/arrested puberty Tanner stage
Morning testosterone
LH
Impaired spermatogenesis: Reduced fertility; oligospermia; azoospermia; infertility Semen analysis
FSH
Inhibin B
Ovarian hormone deficiencies: Delayed/arrested puberty; premature ovarian insufficiency/premature menopause. Reduced ovarian follicular pool: Diminished ovarian reserve; infertility. Tanner stage
Menstrual cycle history
Estradiol
FSH
LH
AMH
Antral follicle count

Refer to the Children's Oncology Group Long-Term Follow-Up Guidelines for Survivors of Childhood, Adolescent, and Young Adult Cancers for reproductive late effects information including risk factors, evaluation, and health counseling.

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  54. Clark RA, Mostoufi-Moab S, Yasui Y, et al.: Predicting acute ovarian failure in female survivors of childhood cancer: a cohort study in the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study (CCSS) and the St Jude Lifetime Cohort (SJLIFE). Lancet Oncol 21 (3): 436-445, 2020. [PUBMED Abstract]
  55. Chow EJ, Stratton KL, Leisenring WM, et al.: Pregnancy after chemotherapy in male and female survivors of childhood cancer treated between 1970 and 1999: a report from the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study cohort. Lancet Oncol 17 (5): 567-76, 2016. [PUBMED Abstract]
  56. Armuand G, Skoog-Svanberg A, Bladh M, et al.: Reproductive Patterns Among Childhood and Adolescent Cancer Survivors in Sweden: A Population-Based Matched-Cohort Study. J Clin Oncol 35 (14): 1577-1583, 2017. [PUBMED Abstract]
  57. Critchley HO, Wallace WH, Shalet SM, et al.: Abdominal irradiation in childhood; the potential for pregnancy. Br J Obstet Gynaecol 99 (5): 392-4, 1992. [PUBMED Abstract]
  58. Green DM, Kawashima T, Stovall M, et al.: Fertility of female survivors of childhood cancer: a report from the childhood cancer survivor study. J Clin Oncol 27 (16): 2677-85, 2009. [PUBMED Abstract]
  59. Green DM, Kawashima T, Stovall M, et al.: Fertility of male survivors of childhood cancer: a report from the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study. J Clin Oncol 28 (2): 332-9, 2010. [PUBMED Abstract]
  60. Winther JF, Boice JD, Svendsen AL, et al.: Spontaneous abortion in a Danish population-based cohort of childhood cancer survivors. J Clin Oncol 26 (26): 4340-6, 2008. [PUBMED Abstract]
  61. Signorello LB, Mulvihill JJ, Green DM, et al.: Stillbirth and neonatal death in relation to radiation exposure before conception: a retrospective cohort study. Lancet 376 (9741): 624-30, 2010. [PUBMED Abstract]
  62. Salooja N, Szydlo RM, Socie G, et al.: Pregnancy outcomes after peripheral blood or bone marrow transplantation: a retrospective survey. Lancet 358 (9278): 271-6, 2001. [PUBMED Abstract]
  63. Beneventi F, Locatelli E, Giorgiani G, et al.: Adolescent and adult uterine volume and uterine artery Doppler blood flow among subjects treated with bone marrow transplantation or chemotherapy in pediatric age: a case-control study. Fertil Steril 103 (2): 455-61, 2015. [PUBMED Abstract]
  64. Green DM, Lange JM, Peabody EM, et al.: Pregnancy outcome after treatment for Wilms tumor: a report from the national Wilms tumor long-term follow-up study. J Clin Oncol 28 (17): 2824-30, 2010. [PUBMED Abstract]
  65. Sanders JE, Hawley J, Levy W, et al.: Pregnancies following high-dose cyclophosphamide with or without high-dose busulfan or total-body irradiation and bone marrow transplantation. Blood 87 (7): 3045-52, 1996. [PUBMED Abstract]
  66. Brämswig JH, Riepenhausen M, Schellong G: Parenthood in adult female survivors treated for Hodgkin's lymphoma during childhood and adolescence: a prospective, longitudinal study. Lancet Oncol 16 (6): 667-75, 2015. [PUBMED Abstract]
  67. Reulen RC, Bright CJ, Winter DL, et al.: Pregnancy and Labor Complications in Female Survivors of Childhood Cancer: The British Childhood Cancer Survivor Study. J Natl Cancer Inst 109 (11): , 2017. [PUBMED Abstract]
  68. Shliakhtsitsava K, Romero SAD, Dewald SR, et al.: Pregnancy and child health outcomes in pediatric and young adult leukemia and lymphoma survivors: a systematic review. Leuk Lymphoma 59 (2): 381-397, 2018. [PUBMED Abstract]
  69. Loren AW, Mangu PB, Beck LN, et al.: Fertility preservation for patients with cancer: American Society of Clinical Oncology clinical practice guideline update. J Clin Oncol 31 (19): 2500-10, 2013. [PUBMED Abstract]
  70. Agarwa A: Semen banking in patients with cancer: 20-year experience. Int J Androl 23 (Suppl 2): 16-9, 2000. [PUBMED Abstract]
  71. Müller J, Sønksen J, Sommer P, et al.: Cryopreservation of semen from pubertal boys with cancer. Med Pediatr Oncol 34 (3): 191-4, 2000. [PUBMED Abstract]
  72. Hsiao W, Stahl PJ, Osterberg EC, et al.: Successful treatment of postchemotherapy azoospermia with microsurgical testicular sperm extraction: the Weill Cornell experience. J Clin Oncol 29 (12): 1607-11, 2011. [PUBMED Abstract]
  73. Dar S, Orvieto R, Levron J, et al.: IVF outcome in azoospermic cancer survivors. Eur J Obstet Gynecol Reprod Biol 220: 84-87, 2018. [PUBMED Abstract]
  74. Domingo J, Ayllón Y, Domingo S, et al.: New approaches to female fertility preservation. Clin Transl Oncol 11 (3): 154-9, 2009. [PUBMED Abstract]
  75. Meirow D, Ra'anani H, Shapira M, et al.: Transplantations of frozen-thawed ovarian tissue demonstrate high reproductive performance and the need to revise restrictive criteria. Fertil Steril 106 (2): 467-74, 2016. [PUBMED Abstract]
  76. Pacheco F, Oktay K: Current Success and Efficiency of Autologous Ovarian Transplantation: A Meta-Analysis. Reprod Sci 24 (8): 1111-1120, 2017. [PUBMED Abstract]
  77. Oktay K, Karlikaya G: Ovarian function after transplantation of frozen, banked autologous ovarian tissue. N Engl J Med 342 (25): 1919, 2000. [PUBMED Abstract]
  78. Signorello LB, Mulvihill JJ, Green DM, et al.: Congenital anomalies in the children of cancer survivors: a report from the childhood cancer survivor study. J Clin Oncol 30 (3): 239-45, 2012. [PUBMED Abstract]
  79. Winther JF, Boice JD, Mulvihill JJ, et al.: Chromosomal abnormalities among offspring of childhood-cancer survivors in Denmark: a population-based study. Am J Hum Genet 74 (6): 1282-5, 2004. [PUBMED Abstract]
  80. Winther JF, Olsen JH, Wu H, et al.: Genetic disease in the children of Danish survivors of childhood and adolescent cancer. J Clin Oncol 30 (1): 27-33, 2012. [PUBMED Abstract]
  81. Sankila R, Olsen JH, Anderson H, et al.: Risk of cancer among offspring of childhood-cancer survivors. Association of the Nordic Cancer Registries and the Nordic Society of Paediatric Haematology and Oncology. N Engl J Med 338 (19): 1339-44, 1998. [PUBMED Abstract]
  82. Byrne J, Rasmussen SA, Steinhorn SC, et al.: Genetic disease in offspring of long-term survivors of childhood and adolescent cancer. Am J Hum Genet 62 (1): 45-52, 1998. [PUBMED Abstract]
  83. Seppänen VI, Artama MS, Malila NK, et al.: Risk for congenital anomalies in offspring of childhood, adolescent and young adult cancer survivors. Int J Cancer 139 (8): 1721-30, 2016. [PUBMED Abstract]

Late Effects of the Respiratory System

Respiratory function may be compromised in long-term survivors of childhood cancer who were treated with the following therapies:

  • Specific chemotherapeutic agents.
  • Thoracic radiation therapy.
  • Pulmonary/chest wall surgery.
  • Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT).

The effects of early lung injury from cancer treatment may be exacerbated by the decline in lung function associated with normal aging, other comorbid chronic health conditions, or smoking. The quality of current evidence regarding this outcome is limited by retrospective data collection, small sample size, cohort selection and participation bias, description of outcomes following antiquated treatment approaches, and variability in time since treatment and method of ascertainment. No large cohort studies have been performed that include clinical evaluations coupled with functional and quality-of-life assessments.

The true prevalence or incidence of pulmonary dysfunction in childhood cancer survivors is not clear. For children treated with HSCT, significant clinical disease has been observed.

Evidence (selected cohort studies describing long-term pulmonary function outcomes):

  1. The Childhood Cancer Survivor Study (CCSS) described the incidence of self-reported pulmonary dysfunction among adult survivors of central nervous system malignancies who were treated with craniospinal irradiation.[1]
    • The incidence (per 1,000 person-years) of emphysema/obliterative bronchiolitis was 9.1 (95% confidence interval, 7.8–10.6).
    • The incidence (per 1,000 person-years) of asthma, chronic cough, and the need for extra oxygen was more than 3.0 (per 1,000 person-years).
    • High rates of late-onset pulmonary dysfunction occurring more than 5 years after diagnosis were also observed.
  2. Dutch investigators reported outcomes of 193 childhood cancer survivors evaluated by pulmonary function testing at a median follow-up of 18 years after diagnosis.[2]
    • Pulmonary function impairment (Common Terminology Criteria for Adverse Events grade 2 or higher) was identified in 85 patients (44.0%) and included obstructive deficits (2.1%), restrictive deficits (17.6%), and decreased carbon monoxide diffusion capacity (39.9%).
    • Multivariate logistic regression models showed that treatment with radiation therapy, radiation therapy combined with bleomycin, and radiation therapy combined with surgery were associated with the highest risk of pulmonary function impairment when compared with bleomycin treatment only.
  3. In a longitudinal study evaluating the magnitude and trajectory of pulmonary dysfunction among 121 childhood cancer survivors (median time from diagnosis to last evaluation, 17.1 years) treated with potentially pulmonary-toxic therapy (e.g., bleomycin, busulfan, pulmonary radiation therapy), survivors were significantly more likely to have restrictive and diffusion defects than were healthy controls.[3]
    • Age younger than 16 years at diagnosis and exposure to more than 20 Gy of chest radiation were associated with increased odds of restrictive defects, whereas female sex and chest radiation dose were associated with diffusion abnormalities.
    • Decline in pulmonary function over time was largely related to changes in diffusion capacity. The odds of decline in diffusion function over time showed a fourfold increase among females and 24-fold increase among survivors treated with more than 20 Gy of chest radiation. Compared with survivors with normal diffusion, those with diffusion defects were significantly more likely to be symptomatic and have poorer health-related quality-of-life scores, with decreases in the domains of physical functioning, role limitation as a result of physical health, and low energy/increased fatigue.
  4. CCSS investigators compared self-reported pulmonary outcomes and their impact on daily activities among 5-year cancer survivors (median, 25 years from diagnosis) and a sibling cohort.[4]
    • Survivors were more likely to report chronic cough, the need for oxygen, lung fibrosis, and recurrent pneumonia than were siblings despite lower rates of smoking.
    • By age 45 years, the cumulative incidence of any pulmonary condition was 29.6% for survivors. Survivors with chronic pulmonary conditions (e.g., chronic cough) were more likely to report activity limitations than were those without these conditions.
    • Pulmonary complications contributed to an almost sixfold excess risk of death among survivors and demonstrated significant associations with exposure to platinum and lung radiation.
  5. St. Jude Lifetime Cohort Study investigators evaluated risk factors for clinically ascertained pulmonary function deficits and the functional impact of pulmonary impairment in 606 adult survivors of childhood cancer (median age, 34 years at evaluation; median time from cancer diagnosis, 21.9 years).[5]
    • Pulmonary function deficits were identified in the following:
      • Forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1) less than 80% predicted (50.7% of patients).
      • Forced vital capacity (FVC) less than 80% predicted (47.2% of patients).
      • Single-breath diffusing capacity of the lung for carbon monoxide corrected for hemoglobin (DLCOcorr) less than 75% predicted (44.6% of patients).
    • Obstructive lung defects (FEV1/FVC, <0.7) were found in 0.8% of patients and restrictive defects (total lung capacity [TLC] <75%) in 31.2% of patients.
    • Risk factors for abnormal pulmonary function included the following:
      • Estimated percentage of lung tissue that received at least 10 Gy of radiation therapy (V10) and elapsed time from diagnosis for FEV1.
      • Age at diagnosis and V10 for TLC.
      • Increased body mass index, V10, and elapsed time from diagnosis for DLCOcorr.
    • Abnormal pulmonary function tests were associated with a decreased 6-minute walk distance.

Respiratory complications after radiation therapy

Radiation therapy that exposes the lung parenchyma can result in pulmonary dysfunction related to reduced lung volume, impaired dynamic compliance, and deformity of both the lung and chest wall.

  • The potential for chronic pulmonary sequelae is related to the radiation dose administered, the volume of lung irradiated, and the fractional radiation therapy doses.[6]
  • Combined-modality therapy including radiation therapy and pulmonary toxic chemotherapy or thoracic/chest wall surgery increases the risk of pulmonary function impairment.[2,7]
  • Chronic pulmonary complications reported after treatment for pediatric malignancies include restrictive or obstructive chronic pulmonary disease, pulmonary fibrosis, and spontaneous pneumothorax.[8]
  • These sequelae are uncommon after contemporary therapy, which most often results in subclinical injury that is detected only by imaging or formal pulmonary function testing.

Evidence (selected cohort studies describing pulmonary outcomes):

  1. For survivors of pediatric Hodgkin lymphoma, the prevalence of pulmonary symptoms using contemporary involved-field techniques is reported to be low. However, some patients exhibit substantial subclinical dysfunction.[9]
    1. A study of 54 children who were treated with induction chemotherapy (usually doxorubicin, bleomycin, vincristine, etoposide, prednisone, and cyclophosphamide–based chemotherapy) and 21 Gy of radiation therapy from 2008 through 2016 confirmed these findings.[10]
      • At a median follow-up of 39.5 months, 3 of 54 patients (5.6%) or 3 of 108 lungs (2.8%) developed radiation pneumonitis (RP); two lungs had grade 1 RP and one lung had grade 2 RP.
      • RP was seen only in patients with a median lung dose of higher than 12.4 Gy or with an individual mean lung dose higher than 13.8 Gy.
    2. In a study of 109 patients (59% with Hodgkin lymphoma) who were irradiated at a median age of 13.8 years (range, 0.04–20.9 years; median follow-up, 3.4 years), patients were treated with a median prescribed radiation therapy dose of 21 Gy (range, 0.4–64.8 Gy); 58.7% of patients received bleomycin, and 83.5% of patients received cyclophosphamide.[11]
      • The 5-year cumulative incidence after irradiation was: pneumonitis, 6%; chronic cough, 10%; pneumonia, 35%; dyspnea, 11%; supplemental oxygen requirement, 2%; radiographic interstitial lung disease, 40%; and chest wall deformity, 12%.
      • One patient died of progressive respiratory failure.
      • Postirradiation pulmonary function tests available from 44 patients showed evidence of obstructive lung disease (25%), restrictive disease (11%), hyperinflation (32%), and abnormal diffusion capacity (12%).
      • Mean lung irradiation dose, maximum lung dose, and Vdose (percentage of volume of lung receiving the threshold dose or greater) were highly correlated. On multivariate analysis, mean lung irradiation dose was the sole significant predictor of adverse pulmonary outcome (P = .01).
  2. Changes in lung function have been reported in children treated with whole-lung radiation therapy for metastatic Wilms tumor.[12,13]
    • A dose of 12 Gy to 14 Gy reduced total lung capacity and vital capacity to about 70% of predicted values, and even lower if the patient had undergone thoracotomy.
  3. Administration of bleomycin alone can produce pulmonary toxicity and, when combined with radiation therapy, can heighten radiation reactions. Chemotherapeutic agents such as doxorubicin, dactinomycin, and busulfan are radiomimetic agents and can reactivate underlying radiation damage.[12,13]

Respiratory complications after chemotherapy

Chemotherapy agents with potential pulmonary toxic effects commonly used in the treatment of pediatric malignancies include bleomycin, busulfan, and the nitrosoureas (carmustine and lomustine). These agents induce lung damage on their own or potentiate the damaging effects of radiation to the lung.

Combined-modality therapy including pulmonary toxic chemotherapy and thoracic radiation therapy or thoracic/chest wall surgery increases the risk of pulmonary function impairment.[2]

Evidence (outcomes among cohorts treated with pulmonary toxic chemotherapy):

  1. The development of bleomycin-associated pulmonary fibrosis with permanent restrictive disease is dose dependent, usually occurring at doses greater than 200 U/m2 to 400 U/m2, higher than those used in treatment protocols for pediatric malignancies.[14,15]
  2. More current pediatric regimens for Hodgkin lymphoma using radiation therapy and doxorubicin, bleomycin, vinblastine, and dacarbazine (ABVD) have shown a significant incidence of asymptomatic pulmonary dysfunction after treatment, which appears to improve with time.[16-18] However, grades 3 and 4 pulmonary toxicity was reported in 9% of children receiving 12 cycles of ABVD followed by 21 Gy of extended-field radiation.[15]
  3. ABVD-related pulmonary toxic effects may result from fibrosis induced by bleomycin or radiation recall pneumonitis related to administration of doxorubicin.
  4. Pulmonary veno-occlusive disease has been observed rarely and has been attributed to bleomycin chemotherapy.[19]

Respiratory complications associated with HSCT

  • Patients undergoing HSCT are at increased risk of pulmonary toxic effects related to the following:[20-22]
    • Preexisting pulmonary dysfunction (e.g., asthma, pretransplant therapy).
    • Conditioning regimens, including cyclophosphamide, busulfan, or carmustine.
    • Total-body irradiation.
    • Graft-versus-host disease (GVHD).
  • Although most survivors of transplant are not clinically compromised, restrictive lung disease may occur and has been reported to increase in prevalence with increasing time from HSCT, based on limited data from longitudinally followed cohorts.[23,24]
  • Obstructive disease is less common, as is late-onset pulmonary syndrome, which includes the spectrum of restrictive and obstructive disease.
  • Bronchiolitis obliterans with or without organizing pneumonia, diffuse alveolar damage, and interstitial pneumonia may occur as a component of this syndrome, generally between 6 and 12 months posttransplant. Cough, dyspnea, or wheezing may occur with either normal chest x-ray or diffuse/patchy infiltrates; however, most patients are symptom free.[21,25,26]

Other factors associated with respiratory late effects

  • Additional factors contributing to chronic pulmonary toxic effects include superimposed infection, underlying pneumonopathy (e.g., asthma), chest wall abnormalities, respiratory toxic effects, chronic GVHD, and the effects of chronic pulmonary involvement by tumor or reaction to tumor.[7]
  • Lung lobectomy during childhood appears to have no significant impact on long-term pulmonary function,[27] but the long-term effect of lung surgery for children with cancer is not well defined.
  • Pulmonary complications may also be exacerbated by smoking cigarettes or other substances. While smoking rates in survivors of childhood cancer tend to be lower than the general population, it is still important to prevent initiation of smoking and promote cessation in this distinct population.[28]

Evidence (pulmonary dysfunction in former or current smokers):

  1. Pulmonary function evaluations of 433 adult childhood cancer survivors treated with pulmonary toxic modalities demonstrated significantly higher risk of pulmonary dysfunction in smokers than in nonsmokers.[29]
    • FEV1/FVC median values among current and former smokers were lower than those who had never smoked.
    • Median FEV1/FVC values were lower among those who smoked less than 6 pack-years and those who smoked 6 pack-years or more compared with those who had never smoked, suggesting that survivors who are former or current smokers have an increased risk of future obstructive and restrictive lung disease.

Table 16 summarizes respiratory late effects and the related health screenings.

Table 16. Respiratory Late Effectsa
Predisposing TherapyRespiratory EffectsHealth Screening/Interventions
DLCO = diffusing capacity of the lung for carbon monoxide; GVHD = graft-versus-host disease.
aAdapted from the Children's Oncology Group Long-Term Follow-Up Guidelines for Survivors of Childhood, Adolescent, and Young Adult Cancers.
Busulfan; carmustine (BCNU)/lomustine (CCNU); bleomycin; radiation exposing lungs; surgery impacting pulmonary function (lobectomy, metastasectomy, wedge resection) Subclinical pulmonary dysfunction; interstitial pneumonitis; pulmonary fibrosis; restrictive lung disease; obstructive lung disease History: cough, shortness of breath, dyspnea on exertion, wheezing
Pulmonary exam
Pulmonary function tests (including DLCO and spirometry)
Chest x-ray
Counsel regarding tobacco avoidance/smoking cessation
In patients with abnormal pulmonary function tests and/or chest x-ray, consider repeat evaluation before general anesthesia
Pulmonary consultation for patients with symptomatic pulmonary dysfunction
Influenza and pneumococcal vaccinations
Hematopoietic cell transplantation with any history of chronic GVHD Pulmonary toxicity (bronchiolitis obliterans, chronic bronchitis, bronchiectasis)History: cough, shortness of breath, dyspnea on exertion, wheezing
Pulmonary exam
Pulmonary function tests (including DLCO and spirometry)
Chest x-ray
Counsel regarding tobacco avoidance/smoking cessation
In patients with abnormal pulmonary function tests and/or chest x-ray, consider repeat evaluation before general anesthesia
Pulmonary consultation for patients with symptomatic pulmonary dysfunction
Influenza and pneumococcal vaccinations

Refer to the Children's Oncology Group Long-Term Follow-Up Guidelines for Survivors of Childhood, Adolescent, and Young Adult Cancers for respiratory late effects information including risk factors, evaluation, and health counseling.[30]

References
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Late Effects of the Special Senses

Hearing

Hearing loss as a late effect of therapy can occur after exposure to platinum compounds (cisplatin and carboplatin), cranial radiation therapy, or both. These therapeutic exposures are most common in the treatment of central nervous system (CNS) and non-CNS solid tumors. Children are more susceptible to otologic toxic effects from platinum agents than are adults.[1,2]

Evidence (hearing loss):

  1. A report from the Swiss Childhood Cancer Survivor Study (CCSS) (N = 2,061) estimated the prevalence of hearing loss in survivors at 10%, compared with 3% in siblings. Hearing loss was most common in survivors of CNS tumors (25%), neuroblastoma (23%), hepatic tumor (21%), germ cell tumor (20%), bone tumor (16%), and soft tissue sarcoma (16%).[3]
  2. Data from the North American CCSS indicate that the relative rate of first occurrence of auditory complications (i.e., problems hearing sounds, tinnitus, hearing loss, deafness) is greatest in the time period from diagnosis to 5 years postdiagnosis; however, during the period of 5 or more years postdiagnosis, the risk of developing such conditions for survivors remained significantly higher than for siblings.[4]
  3. A population-based study used health registry data to evaluate the long-term incidence and predictors of hearing loss requiring hearing amplification devices (HAD) among Canadian childhood cancer survivors.[5]
    1. Among 11,842 cases and 59,210 controls identified, cases were at higher risk of needing an HAD (hazard ratio [HR], 12.8; 95% confidence interval [CI], 9.8–16.7).
    2. The cumulative incidence of HAD among survivors was 2.1% (95% CI, 1.7%–2.5%) at 20 years and increased to 6.4% (95% CI, 2.8%–12.1%) at 30 years postdiagnosis.
    3. The 30-year incidence was highest in survivors of neuroblastoma (10.7%; 95% CI, 3.8%–21.7%) and hepatoblastoma (16.2%; 95% CI, 8.6%–26.0%).
    4. In multivariable analyses, predictors of requiring an HAD included the following:
      • Age 0 to 4 years at diagnosis (vs. age 5–9 years; HR, 2.2; 95% CI, 1.4–3.3).
      • Treatment with 200 mg/m2 or more of cisplatin (vs. no cisplatin; HR, 3.1; 1.8–5.5).
      • Treatment with cranial or facial radiation higher than 32 Gy (vs. radiation therapy ≤32 Gy; HR, 2.4; 1.6–3.7),

Risk factors associated with hearing loss include the following:

  • Younger age at treatment.[5]
  • Higher cumulative dose of platinum-based chemotherapy (≥200 mg/m2).[5,6]
  • Exposure to cisplatin combined with carboplatin.[6]
  • CNS tumors.
  • Cranial radiation therapy.[5]
  • Neurosurgery.

Hearing loss and platinum-based therapy

  • Platinum-related sensorineural hearing loss develops as an acute toxicity that is generally irreversible and bilateral.[7]
  • The prevalence of hearing loss has varied widely per series and is based on platinum treatment (e.g., platinum type, dose, infusion duration); host factors (e.g., age, genetic susceptibility, renal function); receipt of additional ototoxic therapy (cranial radiation therapy, aminoglycosides, loop diuretics), and the grading criteria used to report prevalence and severity of hearing loss.[6,7]
  • Hearing loss manifests initially in the high frequencies and progresses to the speech frequencies with increasing cumulative exposure.
  • Cisplatin-induced hearing loss involving the speech frequencies (500–2,000 Hz) usually occurs with cumulative doses that exceed 400 mg/m2 in pediatric patients.[8,9]
  • Prolonging the duration of infusion or splitting the dose has been reported to reduce the risk of significant hearing loss.[10]
  • In a randomized trial that compared cisplatin alone with cisplatin plus delayed administration of sodium thiosulfate, the administration of sodium thiosulfate 6 hours after cisplatin chemotherapy resulted in a 48% lower incidence of cisplatin-induced hearing loss among children with standard-risk hepatoblastoma and did not jeopardize overall survival or event-free survival.[11]
  • Otologic toxic effects after platinum chemotherapy have been reported to worsen years after completion of therapy.[12]
  • Radiation therapy to the posterior fossa inclusive of the eighth cranial nerve (suggestive of damage to the cochlea at the end of therapy) increases the risk of late-onset hearing loss in survivors treated with cisplatin.[13]
  • Carboplatin used in conventional (nonmyeloablative) dosing is typically not ototoxic.[14] However, delayed-onset hearing loss has been reported in the following populations:
    • In a cross-sectional, multicenter analysis that included 451 Dutch childhood cancer survivors who received platinum agents but not cranial radiation therapy, the incidence of ototoxicity (defined as Münster grade >2b [>20 dB at ≥4–8kHz]) associated with the use of carboplatin given alone (n = 112) was 17%.[6]
    • A single study of otologic toxic effects after non–stem cell transplant dosing of carboplatin for retinoblastoma reported that 8 of 175 children developed hearing loss. For seven of the eight children, the onset of the otologic toxic effects was delayed a median of 3.7 years.[15]
    • Another study that evaluated audiological outcomes among 60 retinoblastoma survivors treated with nonmyeloablative systemic carboplatin and vincristine estimated a cumulative incidence of hearing loss of 20.3% at 10 years.[16]
      • Among the ten patients (17%) who developed sustained grade 3 or grade 4 hearing loss, nine were younger than 6 months at the start of chemotherapy.
      • Younger age at the start of treatment was the only significant predictor of hearing loss; the cumulative incidence of hearing loss was 39% for patients younger than 6 months versus only 8.3% for patients aged 6 months and older.
  • The use of a carboplatin conditioning regimen for hematopoietic stem cell transplantation, particularly in combination with previous carboplatin or cisplatin therapy, may cause significant otologic toxic effects.[8,9]

Hearing loss and cranial radiation therapy

  • Cranial radiation therapy, when used as a single modality, may result in otologic toxic effects that may be gradual in onset, manifesting months to years after exposure. The threshold dose for auditory toxicity after radiation therapy alone is in the range of 35 Gy to 45 Gy for children.[17]
  • High-frequency sensorineural hearing loss is uncommon at cumulative radiation doses below 35 Gy, and is rarely severe below doses of 45 Gy.[18] The exception is for patients with supratentorial tumors and ventriculoperitoneal shunts, in whom doses below 30 Gy may be associated with intermediate frequency (1,000–2,000 Hz) hearing loss.[17,19]
  • To reduce the risk of hearing loss, the average cochlear dose should not exceed 30 Gy to 35 Gy, delivered over 6 weeks.
  • Young patient age and presence of a brain tumor and/or hydrocephalus can increase susceptibility to hearing loss.
  • Sensorineural hearing loss after cranial radiation therapy can progress over time.
    • In a study of 235 pediatric brain tumor patients treated with conformal or intensity-modulated radiation therapy (without cisplatin or preexisting hearing loss) and monitored for a median of 9 years, sensorineural hearing loss was prevalent in 14% of patients, with a median time to onset of 3.6 years from radiation therapy.[20]
      • Follow-up evaluations among 29 patients identified continued decline in hearing sensitivity.
      • Risk factors for cranial radiation–associated sensorineural hearing loss included younger age at initiation of radiation, higher cochlear radiation dose, and cerebrospinal fluid shunting.
  • When used concomitantly with cisplatin, radiation therapy can substantially exacerbate the hearing loss associated with platinum chemotherapy.[17,21-23]
    • In a report from the CCSS, 5-year survivors were at increased risk of problems with hearing sounds (relative risk [RR], 2.3), tinnitus (RR, 1.7), hearing loss requiring an aid (RR, 4.4), and hearing loss in one or both ears not corrected by a hearing aid (RR, 5.2), compared with siblings. Temporal lobe irradiation (>30 Gy) and posterior fossa irradiation (>50 Gy but also 30–49.9 Gy) were associated with these adverse outcomes. Exposure to platinum was associated with an increased risk of problems with hearing sounds (RR, 2.1), tinnitus (RR, 2.8), and hearing loss requiring an aid (RR, 4.1).[4]

Hearing loss and quality of life

Importantly, children treated for malignancies may be at risk of early- or delayed-onset hearing loss that can affect learning, communication, school performance, social interaction, and overall quality of life.

  • Among 137 child survivors of neuroblastoma (aged 8–17 years), hearing loss was associated with problems with reading and math skills, as well as higher risk of learning disability and/or special education needs. In addition, hearing loss was associated with poorer school-related quality of life.[24]
  • Serial neurocognitive and audiology evaluations were performed on 260 children and young adults with embryonal brain tumors who were enrolled on a treatment protocol that consisted of surgery, risk-adapted cranial spinal irradiation, and chemotherapy. The 64 children with severe sensorineural hearing loss exhibited greater reading difficulties over time compared with the group of children with normal or mild-to-moderate sensorineural hearing loss. Specifically, these children with severe sensorineural hearing loss seemed to struggle most with phonological skills and processing speed, which affect higher level skills such as reading comprehension.[25]
  • In a study of adult survivors of pediatric CNS tumors (n = 180) and non-CNS solid tumors (n = 226) who were treated with potentially ototoxic cancer therapy, serious hearing loss (requiring aid or resulting in deafness) was associated with a twofold increased risk of dependent living and unemployment or not graduating from high school.[26]

The Children’s Oncology Group has published recommendations for the evaluation and management of hearing loss in survivors of childhood and adolescent cancers to promote early identification of at-risk survivors and timely referral for remedial services.[27]

Table 17 summarizes auditory late effects and the related health screenings.

Table 17. Auditory Late Effectsa
Predisposing TherapyPotential Auditory EffectsHealth Screening/Interventions
FM = frequency modulated.
aAdapted from the Children's Oncology Group Long-Term Follow-Up Guidelines for Survivors of Childhood, Adolescent, and Young Adult Cancers.
Platinum agents (cisplatin, carboplatin); radiation exposing the earOtologic toxic effects; sensorineural hearing loss; tinnitus; vertigo; dehydrated ceruminosis; conductive hearing loss History: hearing difficulties, tinnitus, vertigo
Otoscopic exam
Audiology evaluation
Amplification in patients with progressive hearing loss
Speech and language therapy for children with hearing loss
Otolaryngology consultation in patients with chronic infection, cerumen impaction, or other anatomical problems exacerbating or contributing to hearing loss
Educational accommodations (e.g., preferential classroom seating, FM amplification system, etc.)

Orbital and Optic

Orbital complications are common after radiation therapy for retinoblastoma and after total-body irradiation (TBI) and in children with head and neck sarcomas and CNS tumors.

Retinoblastoma

  • For survivors of retinoblastoma, a small orbital volume may result from either enucleation or radiation therapy.
  • Age younger than 1 year may increase the risk of orbital complications, but this finding is not consistent across studies.[28,29]
  • Progress has been made in the management of retinoblastoma, with better enucleation implants, intravenous chemoreduction, and intra-arterial chemotherapy in addition to thermotherapy, cryotherapy, and plaque radiation therapy.[30,31]
  • Longer follow-up is needed to assess the impact on vision in patients undergoing these more contemporary treatment modalities.[28,30,31]
  • Previously, tumors located near the macula and fovea were associated with an increased risk of complications leading to vision loss, although treatment of these tumors with foveal laser ablation has shown promise in preserving vision.[32,33]
  • In a study of 61 patients (94 eyes) with a mean follow-up of 51.8 months, a mean lens dose of 7 Gy was associated with a 5-year incidence of cataracts of 20% to 25%.[34]

(Refer to the PDQ summary on Retinoblastoma Treatment for more information on the treatment of retinoblastoma.)

Rhabdomyosarcoma

  • Survivors of orbital rhabdomyosarcoma are at risk of dry eye, cataract, orbital hypoplasia, ptosis, retinopathy, keratoconjunctivitis, optic neuropathy, lid epithelioma, and impairment of vision after radiation therapy doses of 30 Gy to 65 Gy.[35,36]
  • The higher radiation therapy dose ranges (>50 Gy) are associated with lid epitheliomas, keratoconjunctivitis, lacrimal duct atrophy, and severe dry eye.
  • Retinitis and optic neuropathy may also result from doses of 50 Gy to 65 Gy and even at lower total doses if the individual fraction size is higher than 2 Gy.[37]
  • Cataracts are reported after lower doses of 10 Gy to 18 Gy.[35,36,38]

(Refer to the PDQ summary on Childhood Rhabdomyosarcoma Treatment for more information on the treatment of rhabdomyosarcoma in children.)

Low-grade optic pathway glioma and craniopharyngioma

Survivors of optic pathway glioma and craniopharyngioma are also at risk of visual complications, resulting in part from tumor proximity to the optic nerve.

  • In a retrospective cohort study of 59 pediatric patients with sporadic optic pathway gliomas diagnosed between 1990 and 2014 (median follow-up, 5.2 years), there was a significant burden of long-term visual impairment.[39]
    • More than two-thirds of the patients had evidence of long-term vision loss, more than one-half had severe vision loss in at least one eye, and one-quarter of the patients had severe bilateral vision loss.
    • Identified risk factors for poor visual outcome were postchiasmal involvement, younger age, and optic nerve pallor at presentation.
  • Longitudinal follow-up (mean, 9 years) of 21 patients with optic pathway gliomas indicated that before treatment, 81% of patients had reduced visual acuity, 81% had optic nerve pallor, and all had reduced visual evoked potentials in one or both eyes.[40]
    • Treatment arrested acuity loss for 4 to 5 years.
    • Visual acuity was stable or improved in 33% of patients at last follow-up; however, it declined on average. Visual acuity at follow-up was related to tumor volume at initial presentation.
  • In a study of 51 children with low-grade gliomas and low-grade glioneural tumors diagnosed within the first year of life, visual acuity was decreased in 27 of 48 patients (56%), 13 (27%) of whom were legally blind. The tumor location (hypothalamic or optic pathway) was significantly associated with decreased visual acuity (P = .002).[41]
  • CCSS investigators evaluated the impact of impaired vision on cognitive and psychosocial outcomes among 1,233 adult survivors of childhood low-grade gliomas.[42]
    • Some degree of visual impairment was prevalent in 22.5% of patients, and 3.8% of patients were blind in both eyes.
    • Survivors who were blind in both eyes were more likely to be unmarried, live dependently, and be unemployed than were survivors with unimpaired vision.
    • Bilateral blindness did not impact self-reported cognitive or emotional outcomes. Impaired (with some remaining) vision was not associated with psychological or economic outcomes.

Treatment-specific effects

Survivors of childhood cancer are at increased risk of ocular late effects related to both glucocorticoid and radiation exposure to the eye.

Evidence (ocular effects of radiation exposure):

  1. The CCSS reported that survivors who were 5 or more years from diagnosis were at increased risk of developing cataracts (RR, 10.8), glaucoma (RR, 2.5), legal blindness (RR, 2.6), double vision (RR, 4.1), and dry eye (RR, 1.9), compared with siblings.[43]
  2. The 15-year cumulative incidence of cataract was 4.5% among 517 survivors of childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia (median, 10.9 years from diagnosis), systematically evaluated by slit lamp examination. CNS radiation therapy was the only treatment-related risk factor identified for cataract development, which occurred in 11.1% of irradiated survivors, compared with 2.8% of those who were not irradiated.[44]
  3. A report from the CCSS provides additional data on the interval from radiation therapy and the radiation dose associated with the development of cataracts.[45]
    • Among 13,902 study participants, 3.5% developed cataracts (41% within 5 years of radiation therapy), with a median time to onset of 9.6 years and a maximum time of 37 years. Lens radiation doses were associated with an increased prevalence: 1.3% if less than 0.5 Gy, 6.1% after 2.5 to 3.49 Gy, and 40.6% after 20 to 60 Gy.
    • Higher doses were associated with a shorter time interval to diagnosis.
    • Of the group with cataracts, 31% reported having cataract surgery, supporting the clinical consequences.
    • Cytosine arabinoside (odds ratio [OR], 1.5) and doxorubicin (OR, 1.5) were independently associated with cataract development, methotrexate was inversely associated (OR, 0.6), and no positive interaction between the use of corticosteroids and radiation therapy was observed.

Ocular complications, such as cataracts and dry eye syndrome, are common after stem cell transplantation in childhood.

Evidence (ocular effects of stem cell transplantation):

  1. Compared with patients treated with busulfan or other chemotherapy, patients treated with single-dose or fractionated TBI are at increased risk of cataracts. Risk ranges from approximately 10% to 60% at 10 years posttreatment, depending on the total dose and fractionation, with a shorter latency period and more severe cataracts noted after single fraction and higher dose or dose-rate TBI.[46-49]
  2. Patients receiving TBI doses of less than 40 Gy have a less than 10% chance of developing severe cataracts.[49]
  3. Corticosteroids and graft-versus-host disease may further increase risk.[46,50]
  4. The prevalence of cataracts, evaluated by serial slit lamp testing, among 271 participants (mean follow-up, 10.3 years) in the Leucémie Enfants Adolescents (LEA) program was 41.7%, with 8.1% requiring surgical intervention.[51]
    • The cumulative incidence of cataracts among those treated with TBI increased over time from 30% at 5 years to 70.8% at 15 years and 78% at 20 years.
    • The lack of a plateau in cataract incidence suggests that nearly all patients treated with TBI will develop cataracts as follow-up increases.
    • In contrast, the 15-year cumulative incidence of cataracts was 12.5% among those conditioned with busulfan.
    • Multivariable analysis identified high cumulative steroid dose as a potential cofactor with TBI for cataract risk.
  5. Dry eye syndrome has been shown to be more common if the patient was exposed to repeated high trough levels of cyclosporine.[52]

Table 18 summarizes ocular late effects and the related health screenings.

Table 18. Ocular Late Effectsa
Predisposing TherapyOcular/Vision EffectsHealth Screening/Interventions
GVHD = graft-versus-host disease; 131I = iodine I 131.
aAdapted from the Children's Oncology Group Long-Term Follow-Up Guidelines for Survivors of Childhood, Adolescent, and Young Adult Cancers.
Busulfan; corticosteroids; radiation exposing the eye CataractsHistory: decreased acuity, halos, diplopia
Eye exam: visual acuity, funduscopy (yearly)
Ophthalmology consultation
Radiation exposing the eye, including radioiodine (131I) Ocular toxicity (orbital hypoplasia, lacrimal duct atrophy, xerophthalmia [keratoconjunctivitis sicca], keratitis, telangiectasias, retinopathy, optic chiasm neuropathy, enophthalmos, chronic painful eye, maculopathy, papillopathy, glaucoma)History: visual changes (decreased acuity, halos, diplopia), dry eye, persistent eye irritation, excessive tearing, light sensitivity, poor night vision, painful eye
Eye exam: visual acuity, funduscopy (yearly)
Ophthalmology consultation
Hematopoietic cell transplantation with any history of chronic GVHDXerophthalmia (keratoconjunctivitis sicca) History: dry eye (burning, itching, foreign body sensation, inflammation)
Eye exam: visual acuity, funduscopy (yearly)
EnucleationImpaired cosmesis; poor prosthetic fit; orbital hypoplasia Ocular prosthetic evaluation
Ophthalmology

Refer to the Children's Oncology Group Long-Term Follow-Up Guidelines for Survivors of Childhood, Adolescent, and Young Adult Cancers for information on the late effects of special senses, including risk factors, evaluation, and health counseling.

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