For childhood cancer survivors, inherited genetic factors influence risk of cancers later in life

NIH-led study sheds light on the causes of new cancers among childhood cancer survivors and could have implications for their screening and follow-up

Common inherited genetic factors that predict cancer risk in the general population may also predict elevated risk of new cancers among childhood cancer survivors, according to a study led by researchers at the National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the National Institutes of Health. The findings, published in Nature Medicine, provide additional evidence that genetics may play an important role in the development of subsequent cancers in survivors of childhood cancer and suggest that common inherited variants could potentially inform screening and long-term follow-up of those at greatest risk.

Childhood cancer survivors are known to have a higher risk of developing a new cancer later in life due to adverse effects of cancer treatment or rare inherited genetic factors. In the new study, the researchers evaluated the combined effect of common variants with history of radiation treatment and found the resulting elevated cancer risk was greater than the sum of the individual associations for treatment and genetic factors alone.

“Knowledge about a person’s genetic makeup could potentially be useful in managing their risk of subsequent cancers,” said lead investigator Todd M. Gibson, Ph.D., of NCI’s Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics. “The hope would be that, in the future, we can incorporate genetics along with treatment exposures and other risk factors to provide a more complete picture of a survivor’s risk of subsequent cancers to help guide their long-term follow-up care.”

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This page was last updated on Thursday, March 7, 2024