Radiation for Hodgkin's Disease Raises Threat of Breast Cancer in Young Women

Young women with Hodgkin's disease who receive radiation therapy, often the standard treatment, are at increased risk for breast cancer, according to a study supported by the National Cancer Institute (NCI).

To determine the risk of breast cancer, NCI grantees Drs. Steven L. Hancock and Richard T. Hoppe of the Stanford University Medical Center in California, and Dr. Margaret A. Tucker of NCI, reviewed the medical records of nearly 900 patients who were treated for Hodgkins' disease during a three-decade span (1961-1990).

The investigators found that age at irradiation and length of time following therapy proved extremely critical in determining breast cancer risk. The risk increased if patients were younger than age 30 when treatment first began, and increased even more if 15 or more years had passed since radiation therapy was administered in the young women.

As a group, Hodgkin's patients of all ages who received any type of treatment were at a fourfold increased risk for breast cancer, compared with general population rates. Hodgkin's patients treated with radiation at ages 24-29 were at seven times the risk; if younger than 15 when receiving radiotherapy, the risk for breast cancer increased by 136 times.

The findings highlight the significance of vigilant, long-term monitoring of young female patients treated for Hodgkin's disease, which strikes 7,900 Americans each year, including 3,400 females.


Hancock, S.L., M.D., et al., "Breast Cancer After Treatment of Hodgkin's Disease," Journal of the National Cancer Institute, pp. 25-31, Jan. 6, 1993.

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