More children than ever are now beating cancer and living well into adulthood, but doctors have come across a disturbing trend.
Childhood cancer survivors are facing new medical issues in their 20s and 30s that typically affect people in their 60s or 70s.
Dr. Daniel Bowers, pediatric neuro-oncologist at Children's Health and associate professor in the Department of Pediatrics at UT Southwestern Medical Center, is part of the team looking for answers to what he calls a "premature aging phenomenon."
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"Eighty-percent of all children diagnosed will be long-term survivors, and that's terrific, and that's amazing," he said.
However, his study found that nearly 170 cancer survivors had 190 different types of meningiomas — non-cancerous tumors that typically develop in much older adults.
These young survivors also developed conditions usually detected among people in theirs 60s, 70s and 80s.
"Early heart disease, including early-onset breast cancer, dementia, premature menopause," Bowers listed.
He believes that being exposed to the cancer-fighting therapies, such as chemo and cranial radiation, at a young age can accelerate the body's aging process.
"We are developing strategies for screening these young adults who are cancer survivors for meningioma so we can identify them when they're smaller, when they're easier to manage," Bowers said.
He will also use his findings to help children beat cancer without the harmful affects of cranial radiation so that these tiny fighters live their longest, healthiest lives possible.