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Although rare, the very treatment that saves a child’s life may cause a second cancer to develop later.
Everyone has some risk of developing cancer later in life. Several studies have shown that as childhood cancer survivors become older they have a slightly higher risk of developing a second cancer than the general public. Certain types of treatment for childhood cancer or a family history of cancer can increase the risk.
Some survivors who were treated with chemotherapy may develop acute myeloid leukemia (AML). AML most commonly appears during the first 10 years after the completion of cancer treatment. The risk of developing a secondary leukemia is increased for people who were treated with:
Radiation therapy, especially at a young age and at high dose, increases the risk of developing a cancer of soft tissues or bone cancer later in life. The most common sites include the skin, breast, central nervous system, thyroid gland, and bones.
These second cancers most commonly appear more than 10 years after treatment for the original cancer.
Talk with your oncologist about your health risks. Inform your primary care provider. Share a copy of your Survivorship Care Plan, which includes a treatment summary.
In some cases, your doctor may recommend earlier or more frequent screenings.
Have a yearly physical examination. Have all cancer screenings appropriate for age, family history, and treatment.
Pay attention to your health and let your primary care provider know about certain symptoms:
Certain lifestyle habits can reduce the risk of developing cancer:
Smoking is the most preventable cause of cancer. Do not start smoking. If you currently smoke, stop. Many websites and apps have tools to help. The National Cancer Institute, the Centers for Disease Control, and the American Lung Association have reliable resources.
Studies have shown that heavy alcohol drinking can contribute to the development of cancers in the mouth, throat, and esophagus.
Protect your skin from sun exposure
UV rays from the sun can cause skin cancer. There are many ways to protect your skin:
Eat healthy and exercise
Certain cancers are associated with viruses. Two of the most common are human papillomavirus (HPV) and hepatitis B. Vaccines are available to protect against both viruses.
Check with your provider to see if either vaccine is recommended for you.
Everyone should lead a healthy lifestyle, but it is especially important for cancer survivors.
Reviewed: June 2018