(Medical Xpress) – Decades after undergoing cranial irradiation for childhood cancer, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital investigators found that adult survivors of pediatric cancer remain at risk for pituitary hormone deficiencies that may diminish their health and quality of life. The findings appear in the February 10 edition of the Journal of Clinical Oncology.
The study included 748 St. Jude survivors of leukemia, brain and other cancers whose treatment included brain irradiation. The research is the most comprehensive effort yet to assess the long-term impact of the treatment on pituitary function. The pituitary gland sits at the base of the brain and makes hormones involved in regulating growth, sexual development and reproduction, bone and muscle strength and other important functions.
Researchers found that 51.4 percent of survivors were deficient in at least one of the hormones included in this study and 10.9 percent had multiple deficiencies.
The most common deficits involved growth hormone and pituitary hormones called gonadotropins that are involved in fertility and reproduction. Those were also the hormone deficiencies most likely to have gone undiagnosed. Untreated survivors with those deficiencies were also more likely than other survivors to experience muscle weakness, poor fitness, heart disease risk factors and other factors associated with an increased risk of frailty and early death.