Adult survivors of childhood leukemia have lower bone mineral density, study finds

Dec 03, 2008

Men who survived childhood leukemia treatment into adulthood were more likely to have low bone mineral density than other adults their age, putting them at risk of osteoporosis and bone fractures, according to a new study.

The study, led by James G. Gurney, Ph.D., of the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center, found that 24 percent of the 74 survivors studied had abnormally low bone mineral density, a measure of the strength of bones. The average age of the survivors was 30, and they had been treated an average of 24 years ago for the most common type of childhood cancer, acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

According to the World Health Organization, 11 percent of 30-year-old men and 19 percent of 30-year-old women on average have low bone mineral density, a condition known as osteopenia. In this study, published Dec. 1 in the journal Cancer, 36 percent of men and 16 percent of women had low bone mineral density.

"Evaluations of bone health in childhood cancer survivors have only recently been noted as a concern. Routine monitoring has not yet become the standard of care for all survivors. Studies such as this one stress the importance of monitoring for bone health in these survivors, particularly since there may be some simple interventions, such as vitamin D and calcium, that may be beneficial," says study lead author Inas Thomas, M.D., an endocrinology fellow in the Department of Pediatrics at the U-M Medical School.

Low bone mineral density can progress to osteoporosis, a bone disorder common in older adults that can lead to fractures.

The researchers found that male survivors were more likely than female survivors to have lower bone mineral density, and shorter men and women were also more likely to have weaker bones.

The researchers also looked at levels of growth hormones, which are known to be affected by leukemia treatment. Low growth hormone levels and low levels of another hormone called IGF-1 can contribute to poor bone health, but that they are not the only factors involved. The researchers believe the disease itself or the treatments such as radiation – particularly radiation to the brain – and chemotherapy may affect bone growth.

"Survivors with known growth hormone deficiency or insufficiency should definitely be screened, but we would argue that all adult survivors should be screened as well. The disease, chemotherapy and cranial radiation – even if they do not lead to growth hormone deficiency – may play a role in the development of osteopenia or osteoporosis," Thomas says.

Source: University of Michigan

Explore further: Discovery could lead to new cancer treatment

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Painful hip fractures strike breast cancer survivors

Feb 02, 2011

A hip fracture is not common in a 54-year-old woman, unless she is a 54-year-old breast cancer survivor, according to a new Northwestern Medicine study. Researchers found that a combination of early menopause due to breast ...

Breastfeeding -- added protection for cancer survivors?

Jan 20, 2011

Women who have survived childhood cancer should be advised to breastfeed if they can, in order to offset some of the negative health effects of their earlier cancer treatment. According to Susan Ogg and colleagues ...

Stroke doubles patients' risk of hip or thigh fracture

Aug 06, 2009

Stroke survivors have about twice the risk of breaking a hip or femur compared to those without stroke — and the risk is even greater for younger patients, women and those with recent strokes, Dutch researchers report in ...

Toothpick: New molecular tag IDs bone and tooth minerals

Jul 10, 2008

Enlisting an army of plant viruses to their cause, materials researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology have identified a small biomolecule that binds specifically to one of the key ...

Recommended for you

Discovery could lead to new cancer treatment

Aug 29, 2014

A team of scientists from the University of Colorado School of Medicine has reported the breakthrough discovery of a process to expand production of stem cells used to treat cancer patients. These findings could have implications ...

Is the HPV vaccine necessary?

Aug 29, 2014

As the school year starts in full swing many parents wonder if their child should receive the HPV vaccine, which is recommended for girls ages 11-26 and boys 11-21. There are a lot of questions and controversy around this ...

User comments : 0