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December 17,


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Research links Hodgkin's to breast cancer


Research led by Louis Constine, professor of radiation oncology at the Medical Center, has uncovered a tragic consequence associated with children who develop Hodgkin's disease. Findings show that after successful treatment, girls, in particular, face a higher risk of getting a second malignancy than boys.

Featured at the annual meeting of the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology in November, the research shows that the secondary cancer risk to girls seems to increase 10 years after the initial diagnosis and treatment of Hodgkin's disease. And breast cancer appears to be a girl's greatest threat.

Constine believes physicians should be especially alert to cancer prevention and detection for this group of children.

"It is critical that health care providers establish early surveillance programs for any young woman who survives Hodgkin's disease," Constine says. "Girls really require greater surveillance and should begin having mammograms 10 years after treatment."

A form of lymphoma, Hodgkin's afflicts about 5 percent of people who develop childhood cancer. The disease is considered highly curable, with more than 80 percent of children treated successfully by a combination of radiation and chemotherapy.

However, follow-up research shows that children have a 15-fold increased risk for a second malignancy after treatment for Hodgkin's, and the risk to girls for breast cancer is a 45-fold increase.

The research also shows that girls who had early stage Hodgkin's disease are most likely to develop breast cancer, an outcome that cannot yet be explained.

Already, Constine says, clinicians are lowering radiation dosages--while still maintaining an effective level of radiation to cure the Hodgkin's--and taking steps to exclude breast tissue from radiation to the chest area of girls.

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