Every week, the editors of Cancer Today magazine bring you the top news for cancer patients from around the internet. Stay up to date with the latest in cancer research and care by subscribing to our e-newsletter.

Vitamin D Insufficiency Linked to Increased Peripheral Neuropathy Risk

A new study found having vitamin D deficiency may increase the chance that people with breast cancer will develop peripheral neuropathy as a side effect of chemotherapy. Peripheral neuropathy is nerve damage that causes pain, numbness and tingling in the hands and feet that can linger long after chemotherapy ends. “The condition can irreversibly reduce their physical, social, emotional and financial quality of life,” Daniel L. Hertz, a pharmacist at the University of Michigan College of Pharmacy in Ann Arbor and a study author, told Everyday Health. In the study, researchers looked at health data for 1,191 people with early-stage breast cancer. They found 20.7% of people who had vitamin D deficiency prior to the start of treatment developed peripheral neuropathy following chemotherapy with paclitaxel, compared with 14.2% of people with adequate vitamin D levels. This equates to a 57% increased risk for those with vitamin D deficiency. Researchers said further studies are needed to see if vitamin D supplementation could help prevent peripheral neuropathy, but patients with vitamin D deficiency should begin supplementation for overall health. “This study finding uncovers a new potential strategy to combat [chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy], thereby improving the quality of life for cancer patients undergoing treatment,” Mei Wei, an oncologist at the Huntsman Cancer Institute in Salt Lake City who was not involved in the study, said in a press release. Hertz noted Black individuals have higher risks for both peripheral neuropathy and vitamin D deficiency compared with white individuals, so vitamin D supplementation could be a simple way to address these disparities.

Lung Cancer Report Shows Survival Rates Rose, Screening Levels Stayed Low

In recent years, lung cancer survival rates increased significantly, but lung cancer remains the deadliest cancer in America, according to the American Lung Association’s annual State of Lung Cancer report released Tuesday, Nov. 14. The five-year lung cancer survival rate sits at 26.6% as of 2019—up from 21.7% in 2015. While racial disparities continue, patients of color saw increased survival rates in recent years. As of 2019, people of color with lung cancer have a 23.7% five-year survival rate, which is up 17% from 2017. Survival rates for Black, Indigenous and Hispanic patients all increased across this two-year period. “So often, cancer care in general and lung cancer especially moves at a pretty slow pace,” Zach Jump, director of epidemiology and statistics for the American Lung Association, told NPR. “So being able to see significant progress over a couple of years has been very exciting and definitely a cause for optimism.” Despite these successes, lung cancer continues to be the cancer that kills the most people in America annually, with 127,000 deaths last year. Lung cancer’s five-year survival rate falls far below that of other cancers, like breast cancer (91%) and colorectal cancer (65%). Experts noted only a quarter of lung cancer diagnoses get caught at an early stage when the disease is easier to treat. Last year, just 4.5% of eligible people underwent lung cancer screening.

Childhood Cancer Deaths Dropped by 24% in Past Two Decades

Child and teen cancer mortality in the U.S. decreased by 24% from 2001 to 2021, according to a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report released Thursday, Nov. 16. Death rates “declined across the board: all the five-year age groups, male, female and all the race groups,” Sally Curtin, a CDC statistician and the report’s lead author, told NBC News. While the report outlines an overall positive trend, the success hasn’t been shared equally in recent years. Cancer death rates fell across all age and ethnic and racial groups from 2001 to 2011, but only children ages 9 and younger and white youths continued to see significant decreases in cancer deaths during the following decade. The death rate for white children was about 20% lower than that for Hispanic and Black youths in 2021. “Patients should really go to highly specialized pediatric cancer hospitals,” Paolo Boffetta, a population scientist at Stony Brook Cancer Center in New York who was not involved in the report, told NBC News, noting minority patients are more likely to have issues accessing effective treatment than white patients. The report also outlined changes in the types of cancer diagnosed among children and teens. While leukemia remains the most diagnosed cancer in this age group, deaths from leukemia dropped by 47% from 2001 to 2021, in large part due to advances in immunotherapy. In 2021, brain cancer was the most common cause of youth cancer death.

The Week in Cancer News will not be published Nov. 24 due to the Thanksgiving holiday. The next Week in Cancer News will be posted Dec. 1.​​​​