SALT LAKE CITY — Research is showing that when a person beats cancer, they not only have to worry about recurrence, but also other diseases that may hit as they age.
"Cancer survivors are living longer today than ever before," said Mia Hashibe, an associate professor in the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine at the University of Utah and Huntsman Cancer Institute investigator.
Thyroid cancer survivors are particularly at risk because thyroid cancer is often diagnosed at earlier ages than most other cancers, and the five-year survival rate is around 98 percent, meaning most people survive thyroid cancer.
The list of diagnoses to look out for include aging-related diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and osteoporosis.
Hashibe used data from the Utah Population Database, which is housed at Huntsman, to asses the risk for 39 aging-related diseases. The extensive family and medical history records helped to identify 3,706 people who had thyroid cancer between 1997 and 2012 — 37 percent of them younger than 40.
Those records were each compared with five cancer-free individuals to determine increased risks of disease, if any.
The study found that both cancer survivors and those without cancer experienced increased risk of disease as they aged, but younger thyroid cancer survivors had higher risks for select diseases.
"Some of the risks appeared to be higher for those diagnosed at a young age — less than 40 — than for those diagnosed at older ages, and the more aggressive treatment often given to younger patients may contribute to this," Hashibe said.Comment on this story
The observational study, which was published in Cancer Epidemiology: Biomarkers and Prevention, is supported by the National Institutes of Health, the National Cancer Institute, the Huntsman Foundation, the Utah Department of Health and the U. It did not examine various types of treatment and the effects of those on thyroid cancer survivors, as information was limited.
But the authors believe the results could impact decisions for many cancer survivors.
"I hope this study will increase awareness of the long-term health issues experienced by thyroid cancer survivors so that they and their health care providers are proactive about having regular follow-ups and discussions about adopting a healthier lifestyle," Hashibe said.