Radiation May Raise Stroke Risk After Hodgkin's

WEDNESDAY June 17, 2009 -- Hodgkin's lymphoma survivors who are treated with radiation therapy have a greatly increased risk of stroke and transient ischemic attack, also called a "mini-stroke," new research has found.

Flora E. van Leeuwen and colleagues at the Netherlands Cancer Institute in Amsterdam studied 2,201 people with Hodgkin's lymphoma who had been treated before age 51 and had survived at least five years after their diagnosis.

After a median follow-up of 18 years, the researchers found that they were 2.2 times more likely to suffer a stroke and 3.1 times more likely to experience a transient ischemic attack (TIA) than people in the general population. Radiation to the head and neck was associated with this increased risk, but not chemotherapy.

"For young survivors of Hodgkin's lymphoma, who are at especially increased risk of stroke and TIA, physicians should consider appropriate risk-reducing strategies, such as treatment of hypertension and lifestyle changes to reduce the risk of stroke and TIA," van Leeuwen and colleagues wrote.

The study appears online June 17 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

The findings contribute to the "already overwhelming evidence that radiation therapy in Hodgkin's disease is shortsighted," Dr. Dan L. Longo, of the U.S. National Institute on Aging, wrote in an accompanying editorial.

"Unfortunately, given the lifelong increased risks of late effects that have been documented from the use of radiation therapy, we simply cannot keep exposing patients to risk without clear benefit while we wait for safety data to be produced," Longo added. "With an alternative therapy at hand that is just as effective…it is simply unjustified to keep using a toxic modality for the next 10 to 20 years."

More information

The American Cancer Society outlines treatments for Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Posted: June 2009


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