Dangers of Obesity in Childhood Cancer Survivors

obese-childrenUnfortunately, for Survivors of Childhood Cancer, the risks to their health are not over by any means…

Various studies have shown that Childhood Cancer Survivors may be at increased risk of being obese due to the therapies they underwent to fight the cancer.

Among the strongest predictor of obesity in survivors was childhood obesity, which is also a strong predictor of adult obesity in the general public. Other obesity risk factors were age and childhood cancer treatment.

Obesity rates are especially elevated in Childhood Cancer Survivors who were exposed to cranial radiation, which is used to prevent or delay the spread of cancer to the brain.

In a study published online in CANCER, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society, a team led by Carmen Wilson, PhD and Kirsten Ness, PhD, of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, designed a study to estimate the prevalence of obesity among childhood cancer survivors and to identify the clinical and treatment-related risks for obesity in these individuals. The study also looked for potential genetic factors that might play a role.

The study included 1,996 survivors previously treated for cancer at St. Jude who had been diagnosed with cancer at least 10 years ago. Researchers found that:

  • The likelihood of obesity increased among survivors treated with cranial radiation who had also received glucocorticoids, or who were younger at the time of diagnosis.
  • 47% of survivors who had received cranial radiation were obese, compared with 29.4% of survivors who had not received cranial radiation.
  • Certain variants in genes involved with neurons’ growth, repair, and connectivity were linked with obesity among survivors treated with cranial radiation.
  • Survivors who had been treated with chest, abdominal, or pelvic radiation were half as likely to be obese as those who did not receive these treatments.

According to the study, Survivors who were obese when their paediatric cancer was discovered were almost five times more likely than other survivors to continue to be obese .

The high prevalence of obesity in cancer survivors is of great concern and underscores the need to develop more effective counselling and weight-loss interventions for this growing population,” said first author Carmen Wilson, Ph.D., a research associate in the St. Jude Department of Epidemiology and Cancer Control.

Corresponding author Kirsten Ness, Ph.D., a member of St. Jude Epidemiology and Cancer Control, added: “Childhood cancer survivors are known to be prone to developing chronic disease. Obesity just adds to that risk.”

losing-weight-and-keeping-it-off-for-good-zone-diet-daaAs survival rates and care for the childhood cancer patient have improved significantly, there is an increasing incidence of treatment-related late effects. Obesity and Type II Diabetes Mellitus are common and significant metabolic conditions in some populations of adult survivors of childhood cancer.

Results from the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study (CCSS) and other large cohorts of childhood cancer survivors reveal that long-term survivors of ALL and those who received total body irradiation (TBI) or abdominal radiotherapy (RT) are at highest risk for these late effects.

Abdominal radiation is an integral tool in the treatment of many childhood cancers, including Neuroblastoma, Wilms Tumour, Soft Tissue Sarcomas, and Germ Cell Tumours.

Another study,  published in an International Review Journal, Advances in Nutrition, states

Obesity in Childhood Cancer Survivors: Call for Early Weight Management


A high prevalence of obesity and cardiometabolic conditions has been increasingly recognized in childhood cancer survivors.

In particular, survivors of pediatric Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia have been found to be at risk of becoming overweight or obese early in treatment, with increases in weight maintained throughout treatment and beyond.

Nutrition plays an important role in the etiology of obesity and cardiometabolic conditions and is among the few modifiable factors that can prevent or delay the early onset of these chronic conditions.

However, nutritional intake in childhood cancer survivors has not been adequately examined and the evidence is built on data from small cohorts of survivors.

In addition, the long-term impact of cancer diagnosis and treatment on survivors’ nutritional intake as well as how survivors’ nutritional intake is associated with chronic health conditions have not been well quantified in large-scale studies.

Promoting family-based healthy lifestyles, preferably at a sensitive window of unhealthy weight gain, is a priority for preventing the early onset of obesity and cardiometabolic conditions in childhood cancer survivors.

© 2015 American Society for Nutrition.


Read more about obesity in childhood cancer on our page, Weight Gain in Childhood Cancer – there you will find information on Causes, Management/Treatment, and Diet & Physical Activity.

You can also find some valuable information on our posts about Nutrition and even some great Recipes for those with cancer.






About LFCT

This is a blog about CHILDHOOD CANCER and CHILDHOOD CANCER AWARENESS Little Fighters Cancer Trust is a non-profit organisation that offers support and aid to Children with Cancer and their families. When a child is diagnosed with cancer it affects the whole family. One of the parents, usually the mother, must give up their job to care for the child and this creates financial problems for the family. In South Africa especially the majority of these families are not well-to-do; many of them are rural. A diagnosis of cancer can wipe out any family’s finances, let alone a poor family. The costs of special medications, special diets, hospital stays, transport to and from the hospital or clinic and accommodation and food costs for the mother who spends most of the time at her child’s bedside are astronomical. These are the people and problems that fall through the cracks, and these are the people that Little Fighters Cancer Trust has pledged to help in any way possible. LFCT takes a holistic approach to assisting the Children with Cancer and their Families, with the main aim to be the preservation of individual dignity and pride. Little Fighters Cancer Trust also focuses on promotion and advocacy of National Childhood Cancer Awareness in an effort to increase awareness of Early Warning Signs of Childhood Cancer. This would result in earlier diagnosis, giving the Child with Cancer more of a chance at Treatment and Survival. See "About" for more Background info

Posted on 23 January, 2017, in Blog, Research and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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