Infections among long-term survivors of childhood and adolescent cancer: a report from the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study

Cancer. 2014 Aug 15;120(16):2514-21. doi: 10.1002/cncr.28763. Epub 2014 May 13.


Background: Little is known about infections among adult survivors of childhood cancer. The authors report the occurrence of infections and risk factors for infections in a large cohort of survivors of childhood cancer.

Methods: The Childhood Cancer Survivor Study cohort was used to compare incidence rates of infections among 12,360 5-year survivors of childhood cancer with the rates of 4023 siblings. Infection-related mortality of survivors was compared with that of the US population. Demographic and treatment variables were analyzed using Poisson regression to determine the rate ratios (RRs) and corresponding 95% confidence intervals (CIs) for associations with infectious complications.

Results: Compared with the US population, survivors were at an increased risk of death from infectious causes (standardized mortality ratio [SMR], 4.2; 95% CI, 3.2-5.4), with the greatest risk observed among females (SMR, 3.2; 95% CI, 1.5-6.9) and among those who had been exposed to total body irradiation (SMR, 7.8; 95% CI, 1.8-33.0). Survivors also reported higher rates than siblings of overall infectious complications (RR, 1.3; 95% CI, 1.2-1.4) and higher rates of all categories of infection.

Conclusions: Survivors of childhood cancer remain at elevated risk for developing infectious-related complications, and they have a higher risk of infection-related mortality years after therapy. Further investigation is needed to provide insight into the mechanisms for the observed excess risks.

Keywords: adolescent cancer; childhood cancer; infections; late effects; survivorship.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Infections / epidemiology*
  • Male
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Neoplasms / microbiology*
  • Neoplasms, Second Primary / epidemiology*
  • Neoplasms, Second Primary / microbiology*
  • Survivors / statistics & numerical data*
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Young Adult