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Unhealthy lifestyle dramatically boosts health risks for childhood cancer survivors

Kristen Ness, PhD

Adult survivors of childhood cancer who don’t get enough exercise and eat an unhealthy diet more than double their chances of developing metabolic syndrome. This disorder includes symptoms like high blood pressure and a large waistline. Those factors increase the risk of heart disease, diabetes and other serious health problems.

St. Jude researchers found the link by studying 1,598 childhood cancer survivors. They ranged in age from 19 to 60 years old. All were enrolled in the St. Jude LIFE study. Through that project, adults who were treated at St. Jude as children return to the hospital for tests. The tests help scientists learn more about the health challenges facing childhood cancer survivors.

Almost 32 percent of survivors in this study had metabolic syndrome. Only 27 percent followed a heart-healthy lifestyle. Lifestyle had a greater impact on the survivors’ risk of developing metabolic syndrome than risk factors related to their cancer treatment.

“The findings suggest that if childhood cancer survivors maintain a healthy lifestyle by staying active and eating a diet low in fat, sugar and salt and rich in fruit and vegetables they should be able to influence whether or not they develop metabolic syndrome,” said Kirsten Ness, PhD, of St. Jude Epidemiology and Cancer Control.

The study appears in the journal Cancer.

July 28, 2014

Read the news release.