Young Cancer Survivors Often Face Long-Term Health Problems

More smoking, obesity, chronic illness, poor mental health seen in these young adults, CDC says

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MONDAY, June 11 (HealthDay News) -- Many teens and young adults who survive cancer face other challenges later in life, such as unhealthy behaviors, chronic medical conditions and poor quality of life, according to a new report.

The researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted that these young people also face barriers to health care. The study authors said that more should be done to ensure these young cancer survivors receive the follow-up care they need and are advised about healthy lifestyle habits.

In conducting the study, researchers led by Dr. Eric Tai, from the CDC's Division of Cancer Prevention and Control, examined information collected in 2009 from an ongoing national telephone survey on health behaviors.

The investigators collected information from about 4,000 teens and young adults who were successfully treated for cancer that was diagnosed when they were aged 15 to 29, and compared it with information from more than 345,000 people with no history of cancer.

The study, published in the June 11 online edition of the journal Cancer, revealed that 26 percent of the young people who survived cancer smoked compared to 18 percent of those who did not have cancer. In addition, 31 percent of the cancer survivors were obese compared to 27 percent of those who didn't have cancer.

The cancer survivors also had a higher prevalence of chronic illnesses: 14 percent had heart disease compared to 7 percent of those without cancer; 35 percent had high blood pressure compared to 29 percent of those with no history of cancer; and 15 percent had asthma compared to 8 percent of those who did not have cancer, the researchers found.

The young people who survived cancer also had a higher prevalence of disability compared to those with no history of cancer (36 percent vs. 18 percent). Moreover, 20 percent of the cancer survivors reported poor mental health and 24 percent said they had poor physical health compared to 10 percent of those who did not have cancer.

The study also revealed that 24 percent of young cancer survivors go without medical care due to cost compared to just 15 percent of those who did not have cancer as a teenager or young adult.

Doctors should be advised on how to provide proper follow-up care for these cancer survivors, the researchers suggested, and teenagers and young adults treated for cancer should be counseled on healthy habits.

"Many of these negative behaviors and characteristics are potentially modifiable," Tai concluded in a journal news release.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about the long-term effects of treatment for childhood cancer.

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