Clinical ascertainment of health outcomes among adults treated for childhood cancer

JAMA. 2013 Jun 12;309(22):2371-2381. doi: 10.1001/jama.2013.6296.


Importance: Adult survivors of childhood cancer are known to be at risk for treatment-related adverse health outcomes. A large population of survivors has not been evaluated using a comprehensive systematic clinical assessment to determine the prevalence of chronic health conditions.

Objective: To determine the prevalence of adverse health outcomes and the proportion associated with treatment-related exposures in a large cohort of adult survivors of childhood cancer.

Design, setting, and participants: Presence of health outcomes was ascertained using systematic exposure-based medical assessments among 1713 adult (median age, 32 [range, 18-60] years) survivors of childhood cancer (median time from diagnosis, 25 [range, 10-47] years) enrolled in the St Jude Lifetime Cohort Study since October 1, 2007, and undergoing follow-up through October 31, 2012.

Main outcomes and measures: Age-specific cumulative prevalence of adverse outcomes by organ system.

Results: Using clinical criteria, the crude prevalence of adverse health outcomes was highest for pulmonary (abnormal pulmonary function, 65.2% [95% CI, 60.4%-69.8%]), auditory (hearing loss, 62.1% [95% CI, 55.8%-68.2%]), endocrine or reproductive (any endocrine condition, such as hypothalamic-pituitary axis disorders and male germ cell dysfunction, 62.0% [95% CI, 59.5%-64.6%]), cardiac (any cardiac condition, such as heart valve disorders, 56.4% [95% CI, 53.5%-59.2%]), and neurocognitive (neurocognitive impairment, 48.0% [95% CI, 44.9%-51.0%]) function, whereas abnormalities involving hepatic (liver dysfunction, 13.0% [95% CI, 10.8%-15.3%]), skeletal (osteoporosis, 9.6% [95% CI, 8.0%-11.5%]), renal (kidney dysfunction, 5.0% [95% CI, 4.0%-6.3%]), and hematopoietic (abnormal blood cell counts, 3.0% [95% CI, 2.1%-3.9%]) function were less common. Among survivors at risk for adverse outcomes following specific cancer treatment modalities, the estimated cumulative prevalence at age 50 years was 21.6% (95% CI, 19.3%-23.9%) for cardiomyopathy, 83.5% (95% CI, 80.2%-86.8%) for heart valve disorder, 81.3% (95% CI, 77.6%-85.0%) for pulmonary dysfunction, 76.8% (95% CI, 73.6%-80.0%) for pituitary dysfunction, 86.5% (95% CI, 82.3%-90.7%) for hearing loss, 31.9% (95% CI, 28.0%-35.8%) for primary ovarian failure, 31.1% (95% CI, 27.3%-34.9%) for Leydig cell failure, and 40.9% (95% CI, 32.0%-49.8%) for breast cancer. At age 45 years, the estimated cumulative prevalence of any chronic health condition was 95.5% (95% CI, 94.8%-98.6%) and 80.5% (95% CI, 73.0%-86.6%) for a serious/disabling or life-threatening chronic condition.

Conclusions and relevance: Among adult survivors of childhood cancer, the prevalence of adverse health outcomes was high, and a systematic risk-based medical assessment identified a substantial number of previously undiagnosed problems that are more prevalent in an older population. These findings underscore the importance of ongoing health monitoring for adults who survive childhood cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Chronic Disease / epidemiology*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Endocrine System / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Health Status
  • Heart / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Lung / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Neoplasms / therapy
  • Neoplasms, Second Primary / epidemiology
  • Nervous System / physiopathology
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Assessment
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Survivors*
  • Young Adult