Childhood cancer survivors who are most likely to develop tumours as adults continue to endanger their health by smoking, research suggests.

A University of Birmingham(England) team found the highest smoking rates among patients whose type of treatment put them at greater risk later in life.

Cancer campaigners have expressed concern that the survivors are exposing themselves to “avoidable” dangers.

The researchers say more education is needed about the risks of smoking.

We are very concerned that people are exposing themselves to a further completely avoidable risk for developing another cancer
Professor Mike Hawkins
Centre for Childhoold Cancer Survivor Studies

The study, in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, pinpoints three types of childhood cancer – Hodgkin’s lymphoma, soft tissue sarcomas and Wilms’ tumour – which are known to carry an increased risk of further tumours due to the form of radiotherapy and chemotherapy used to treat them.

The researchers found that smoking was most common among people who had been treated for these cancers when children – nearly a quarter of the 10,000 former cancer sufferers surveyed.

Overall, childhood cancer survivors are around half as likely as the general population to be regular smokers.

Intervention call

Researcher Dr Clare Frobisher, based at Birmingham’s Centre for Childhoold Cancer Survivor Studies, said: “It is worrying that those survivors who are most at risk of developing a new cancer as a result of their treatment, are more likely to be smokers than other childhood cancer survivors.

INCREASED RISK
A study of 16,541 survivors of childhood cancer found they were 6.2 times more likely to develop a second primary tumour than the general population
After 25 years 4.2% of survivors had developed a second primary cancer
The rate of second primary tumours among survivors of Hodgkin’s lymphoma was 9.2 times that of the general population, for Wilms’ tumour it was 6.9 times, and for soft tissue sarcoma it was 4.3 times
Figures from the Centre for Childhood Cancer Survivor Studies

“It is clear that more work needs to be done to make sure they are aware of their increased risk of a second cancer and other related health problems if they smoke.”

The majority of smokers in the study took up smoking before the age of 20.

Dr Frobisher said: “We think intervention programmes should be put in place early, targeting cancer survivors as young as 12.”

Professor Mike Hawkins, director of the Centre for Childhoold Cancer Survivor Studies, said: “We are very concerned that people who have been exposed to radiation and chemotherapy drugs during treatment for cancer as a child are exposing themselves to a further completely avoidable risk for developing another cancer and other smoking-related diseases in later life.”

Elspeth Lee, of the charity Cancer Research UK, said it was crucial that young cancer survivors were given all the necessary information and support to discourage tem for taking up smoking.

Thanks to the development of better treatments for childhood cancer, almost eight in ten children now survive a diagnosis of the disease.

It is estimated that there are more than 26,000 survivors of childhood cancer alive in Britain today.

It is estimated that in the UK around 11 million adults – more than one in five of the population – smoke.

Smoking is the single biggest preventable cause of cancer in the UK. It is responsible for nearly nine out of ten cases of lung cancer in the UK. With that being said, The makers of Smoke Away would like to stress that they want you to quit smoking, it does not matter how you do it just quit, whether its with our product or someone else’s.

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