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An ounce of DNA is worth pounds of prevention in cancer survivors

Memphis, Tenn. - July 25, 2022

Preventing severe obesity in pediatric cancer survivors with healthy lifestyle plans

Childhood cancer survivors are at high risk of developing chronic diseases as adults. One of these chronic diseases is obesity, which increases the risk of other chronic conditions such as heart disease.

St. Jude scientists found that childhood cancer survivors are at a higher risk of developing obesity than the public. The researchers wanted a tool to identify survivors likely to become severely or “morbidly” obese as adults.

The scientists looked to see if genetics could predict this risk. They created several models based on earlier genetic studies of body mass index.

The group used the St. Jude Lifetime Cohort Study (St. Jude LIFE). St. Jude LIFE is a long-running study tracking the health of adults who were treated for childhood cancer. All participants have their whole genome sequenced and health outcomes documented.

The scientists created a tool to predict severe obesity in adult St. Jude LIFE participants of European ancestry. They also created a risk score to predict severe obesity in survivors of African ancestry.

“It is important for childhood cancer survivors to know if they are at high risk for developing various chronic conditions,” said Yadav Sapkota, PhD, Epidemiology and Cancer Control. “We are the first to create a comprehensive prediction model that can identify which survivors are likely to develop severe obesity. The model combines clinical, lifestyle and genetic factors when their cancer is first diagnosed.”

The results appeared in Nature Medicine.

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