Childhood Cranial Radiation Therapy May Increase Obesity Risk in Adults

sharma-obesity-cancer-cellsAmong all of the possible factors that may contribute to obesity, one that is seldom discussed (and most people are largely unaware of) is surviving cancer.

While this is increasingly being appreciated in adults, data on childhood cancer survivors is rather sparse.

Thus, a study by Carmen Wilson and colleagues, published in Cancer, which follows the development of obesity in individuals treated for cancer as kids is of particular interest.

The study looks at 1996 cancer survivors who previously received treatment for cancer at a large Children’s Research Hospital, who survived ≥10 years from diagnosis (median age at diagnosis, 7.2 years; median age at follow-up, 32.4 years).

Interestingly, 47% of survivors, who received cranial radiation therapy developed obesity compared to only 30% of those who did not.

This risk was greatest in those who also received glucocorticoids or were the youngest at the time of treatment.

The researchers also found a significant modifying effect of genetic markers, some of which are known to be involved in neural growth, repair and connectivity.

Thus, this study shows that survivors of childhood cancer appear to be prone to developing obesity as adults particularly if they were treated with cranial radiation therapy and/or corticosteroids.

Clinicians should be aware of this increased risk and should consider measures to prevent excess weight gain in individuals with a history of childhood cancer.

Edmonton, AB

ResearchBlogging.orgWilson CL, Liu W, Yang JJ, Kang G, Ojha RP, Neale GA, Srivastava DK, Gurney JG, Hudson MM, Robison LL, & Ness KK (2015). Genetic and clinical factors associated with obesity among adult survivors of childhood cancer: A report from the St. Jude Lifetime Cohort. Cancer PMID: 25963547