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Childhood Cancer Survivors Are at Increased Risk of Mental Health Issues

Children diagnosed with cancer are living longer than ever before, but they emerge from treatment more likely to experience mental health issues over the course of their life, according to an analysis published online June 22 in JAMA Pediatrics. Researchers analyzed 52 studies involving more than 20,000 childhood, adolescent and young adult cancer survivors. These survivors were 57% more likely to develop depression, 29% more likely to have anxiety and 56% more likely to be diagnosed with psychotic disorders following treatment compared with their siblings or other people without cancer. Those diagnosed with cancer between ages 12 and 18 had the highest risk of severe depression as an adult. Experts noted these increased risks can be attributed to high levels of grief. “[It’s] not just grief over a shortened life because a lot of people survive—but grief over how their life would have looked like,” Jeanelle Folbrecht, a pediatric, adolescent and young adult psychologist at City of Hope in Los Angeles who was not involved in the study, told STAT. “Grief over the loss of their physical abilities, their ability to pursue their career choice, their ability to engage in recreational activities or sports.” The analysis also found education, income level and social support can impact a survivor’s risk of developing a mental health issue. However, there was no increased risk for suicide among these survivors.

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome Associated With Ovarian Cancer Risk After Menopause

A new study found postmenopausal women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) were more than twice as likely to develop ovarian cancer compared with women without PCOS. Study results were presented June 26 at the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology annual meeting in Copenhagen and simultaneously published in the International Journal of Cancer. Researchers analyzed health data for 1.7 million women born in Denmark between 1940 and 1993. During median follow-up of 26 years, 6,490 women developed epithelial ovarian cancer, which is the most common form of ovarian cancer, and 2,990 had borderline ovarian tumors. While there was no association between PCOS and ovarian cancer in the general population, postmenopausal women with PCOS had more than double the risk of developing ovarian cancer compared to those without PCOS. “Both patients and clinicians will benefit from improved knowledge of the potential long-term health risks associated with PCOS,” Clarissa Frandsen, a PhD student at the Danish Cancer Society Research Center in Copenhagen and the study’s lead author, told U.S. News & World Report.

Advances Continue in Cancer Vaccine Development

Following decades with minimal progress, researchers have begun to see initial successes using cancer vaccines, with many experts expecting more breakthroughs to occur in the coming years, the Associated Press (AP) reported. These vaccines aim to shrink tumors and prevent recurrences, with initial versions targeting bladder, breast, lung, ovarian, pancreatic, prostate and skin cancers. Early vaccine trials failed as the cancer managed to evade the immune system. However, with advanced understanding of how cancer does so, scientists can better design immunotherapies that instruct T cells to kill tumor cells. “All of these trials that failed allowed us to learn so much,” Olja Finn, a vaccine researcher at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, told the AP. Scientists also are shifting their focus to patients with early-stage cancer rather than advanced disease. Many of the vaccines in development are personalized based on the patient’s specific mutations. This personalization, however, comes with a high price tag, so other research focuses on vaccines that could be mass produced. Researchers emphasized patient volunteers are critical to bringing these vaccines closer to being a reality. “I have nothing to lose and everything to gain, either for me or for other people down the road,” Todd Pieper, who is participating in a lung cancer vaccine trial, told the AP.