Childhood-Cancer Survivors With No Recurrence After 5 Years Likely Will Have Normal Life Span, Study Shows

By Lois Baker

Release Date: June 15, 1994 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Childhood-cancer survivors who have no recurrence of cancer in the first five years after diagnosis can expect to live as long as members of the general population, a new study by researchers from the University at Buffalo has shown.

The study is the first to examine long-term survival of pediatric cancer patients in the era of modern treatments, which have increased survival rates dramatically.

“These results suggest that we can identify a fairly large group of cancer patients who have the same survival rate as people who have not had cancer,” said Daniel M. Green, M.D., professor of pediatrics at the University of Buffalo and Roswell Park Cancer Institute, and lead author of the study.

He noted, however, that only a small number of individuals in the study were older than 35 and that additional follow-up of the subjects in the study is necessary to see if, as they grow older, their mortality ratio continues to reflect that of the general population.

"Maybe now we’ll be able to convince interested parties, such as life insurers, that these people should be insured at the same rate as the general population, at least for term insurance," Green said. "We haven’t followed people up to 70 years of age yet to see if something changes later in life.”

Results of the study were reported in Medical and Pediatric Oncology earlier this year and updated in April at the annual meeting of the Society for Pediatric Research.

The findings were based on data from 690 five-year survivors of childhood cancer who were diagnosed at Roswell Park between January 1960 and December 1988. All developed the disease before the age of 20. The mean age of five-year survivors at follow-up was 26.9 years, with patients ranging in age from 5-52 years.

The standardized mortality ratios for patients who did not have a recurrence or progression of disease during the first five years were not significantly different from the average New York State population, the researchers found.

The most significant factor influencing further survival of five-year survivors of childhood cancer in the era of modern treatment was recurrence of the initial cancer, results showed.

The authors noted in Medial and Pediatric Oncology, "Future studies of five-year survivors of childhood cancer should continue the identification of factors which influence further survival, with the goal of defining more precisely that subgroup of this population who should be treated by employers, insurance underwriters, and others as having a life expectancy which at the present time appears to be no different from that of the general population."

Member of the research team, in addition to Green, were Michael A. Zevon, Ph.D.; Peter A. Reese; Geoffrey S. Lowrie, and Arthur M. Michalek, Ph.D., all of UB and Roswell Park.