We all face health problems as we age, but a new study finds an "extraordinarily high" rate of chronic health issues among childhood cancer survivors—many of whom were unaware of their condition. The study of more than 1,700 adults at least 10 years past diagnosis found that by age 45, more than 95% suffered from a chronic condition tied to either the cancer itself or the treatment they received for that cancer, the Wall Street Journal reports. Worse still, 80% of those conditions could be labeled serious, disabling, or life-threatening. Specifically:
- Of those whose treatment was associated with risks to the pulmonary system, 65% had lung problems.
- Of those whose treatment was cardiotoxic, 56.4% had heart problems. For example, those who got chest radiation often had scarred or leaky heart valves.
- Those who got brain radiation had mild cognitive deficits much more typical of older people. (Participants in the study were aged 18 to 60, but the average age was 33.) Time reports that 61% had endocrine problems in the brain and 48% had memory problems.
- Bloomberg reports that 62% of participants had hearing loss, the second-most prevalent issue after lung problems. Reproductive disorders were also common.
Even more concerning: Many of the conditions had not been diagnosed prior to the study. One 44-year-old participant, who received radiation at age 16, has a healthy lifestyle (including biking 120 miles a week) and had no idea until the study was done that he needed bypass surgery. "Doctors may not be thinking about a heart-valve disorder in someone in his 30s, but if you had radiation to your chest at 10, this is something to think about," says one of the study authors.