New report on the risk of second cancers in teenagers and young adults treated for cancer

Teenage and Young Adult Cancer Study published.

Text that says Results

The Teenage and Young Adult Cancer Survivor Study has published results on the long-term risk of developing a second cancer in people who were diagnosed with a first cancer when they were teenagers or young adults.

People who have been treated for cancer, including lymphoma, have a higher risk than the general population of developing a second, different, cancer. This is a known late effect of treatment for lymphoma. Second cancers can be related to the type of lymphoma you had or the treatment you received (for example, chemotherapy or radiotherapy).

The Teenage and Young Adult Cancer Survivor Study collected information on over 200,000 people in England and Wales who were diagnosed with cancer between the ages of 15 and 39. The study authors have recently published their analysis of the risk of developing a second cancer in people who had different types of teenage or young adult cancers.

Females who were diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma as teenagers or young adults had the highest risk of developing a second cancer. Over half of these were breast cancers. The risk rose gradually with time: fewer than 1 in 100 women developed a second cancer within 5 years of diagnosis. By 35 years after diagnosis, the risk of developing a second cancer had risen to around 1 in 4 women.

Men with Hodgkin lymphoma were most at risk of developing lung cancer. Again, the risk rose over time, from less than 1 in 100 second cancers within 5 years of diagnosis to around 1 in 7 after 35 years.

Second cancers developed in around 1 in 7 people (male and female) within 35 years of diagnosis with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The most common second cancer in people with non-Hodgkin lymphoma was thyroid cancer.

Although these results may seem alarming, many people included in this study were treated several decades ago. Improvements in treatment mean that the risk of developing second cancers is decreasing all the time as more precise, less toxic treatments become available.

The results of this study are important as they help medical professionals understand what to look out for in people who are at risk of second cancers. They can also be used to develop guidelines on the most appropriate follow-up and screening for people who have been treated for cancer as teenagers and young adults. This may include screening for breast, lung and thyroid cancers.

We have more information on late effects of lymphoma treatment in our section on side effects of lymphoma treatment.

25 March 2019