A new study has shown that children receiving treatment for cancer are at a higher risk of developing diabetes. The study shows that chemotherapy and other radiation treatments tend to exacerbate the condition. Experts warn this means health care providers need to consider new treatments for children suffering from the conditions. The study was coordinated by a team of researchers in Britain and France. The results have been published in Lancet medical journal.
The study followed adults who received chemotherapy while they were children. All subjects were childhood cancer survivors who received radiation treatment sometime between 1948 and 1985. The authors wanted to determine if there was a correlation between chemotherapy treatments and the likelihood for developing diabetes.
Researchers found that 6.6% those who received radiation treatment developed diabetes. That was nearly three times the rate of patients who did not undergo chemotherapy treatments. In addition, the study found that children who received higher levels of radiation treatment were at a higher risk of developing diabetes.
Researchers can’t prove why children undergoing chemotherapy are more likely to develop diabetes. However, the findings have shown that part of the pancreas responsible for producing insulin is often damaged during radiation therapy. This could be one of the reasons patients are at higher risk of developing diabetes.
The authors of the study said that physicians will need to consider different treatments for patients suffering from diabetes. According toÂ Florent de Vathaire, one of the authors in the study, they will need to realize how important the pancreas is in children. Chemotherapy should be used as a last resort when treating children.
Physicians typically prescribe chemotherapy to nearly half of all patients who are diagnosed with cancer. Although health care providers may need to think of alternative treatments for patients, they will need to better understand the relationship between diabetes and chemotherapy before deciding the best alternative. They may find that the chances of developing diabetes depends on the level of radiation they are receiving. They may find that lowering the dosage could be a more effective treatment.
As compelling as the findings of this study were, they may not be enough to discourage health care providers from using radiation treatments on patients. Future studies may find that radiation treatments are the most effective treatment for most forms of malignant cancer. Physicians will need to weigh the dangers of posed by cancer with the chance of a child developing diabetes. Diabetes is a treatable and usually non-life threatening disease, while many forms of cancer can be deadly if not treated aggressively.
Either way, researchers will need to conduct additional studies to determine the relationship between chemotherapy treatments and the risk of developing diabetes.