Chest Radiation in Youth Found to Up Breast Cancer Risk

Women treated for pediatric, young adult cancer face increased risk of breast cancer at young age
By Monica Smith
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, April 6 (HealthDay News) -- Women who are treated for cancer at a young age with chest radiation therapy have an increased risk of developing breast cancer at a young age, according to a systematic literature review published in the April 6 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Tara O. Henderson, M.D., of the University of Chicago, and colleagues analyzed studies conducted from 1966 to 2008 to summarize the level of breast cancer risk and the benefit and/or harm of breast cancer surveillance in women who were treated with chest radiation for pediatric or young adult cancer.

The researchers found that the standardized incidence ratios range from 13.3 to 55.5 and that the cumulative incidence of breast cancer by age 40 to 45 years ranges from 13 to 20 percent, with risk increasing linearly with higher radiation exposure. They also write that limited evidence suggests breast cancer characteristics and outcomes in this patient group are similar to those in the general population and that mammography can detect cancer, though it has limited sensitivity.

"We identified consistent evidence that women treated for pediatric or young adult cancer with moderate- to high-dose therapeutic chest radiation (≥20 Gy) have a substantially elevated risk for breast cancer at a young age and that this excess risk does not plateau with age," the authors write. "There seems to be a benefit associated with early detection."

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