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Radiotherapy linked to diabetes risk in children

23rd August 2012

Research published online in The Lancet Oncology has claimed that children who had radiotherapy that exposed their pancreas to radiation are almost three times more likely to develop diabetes in later life.

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The research team analysed 2,520 patient questionnaires and medical records from French and British people who had cancer when they were children but survived for at least 20 years after undergoing treatment.

Using information to reconstruct how the patient was likely to have been treated when they underwent radiotherapy, they were able to establish that 2.3% of patients who had not received radiotherapy had been diagnosed with diabetes by the time they were 45, compared with 6.6% of those people who had been treated for childhood cancer with radiotherapy.

In particular, they found that patients were more likely to have diabetes later in life when the tail, rather than others parts of the pancreas were exposed to radiation – possibly because this part of the organ contained a type of cell involved in insulin production.

The likelihood of acquiring diabetes was also affected by the higher the dose of radiation.

Report author Dr Florent de Vathaire of the Centre for Epidemiology and Public Health of INSERM at the Gustave Roussy Institute in France, said: “The pancreas needs to be regarded as a critical organ when planning radiation therapy, particularly in children.

“Until now, the pancreas was one of the few organs not considered at risk of normal tissue complication in the French and the UK national guidelines for cancer radiation therapy.”

 

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