Second primary cancers following cancer among adolescents and young adults in Queensland, Australia, 1982-2013

What is known?

Cancer survivors face an increased risk of developing a second primary cancer, which is often linked to either the first cancer or the curative treatments that they receive. This is different from a relapse, which is when the initial cancer comes back. A second primary cancer is a new and separate diagnosis.

The likelihood of a second cancer is well studied in children and older people, but less is understood about the risk for adolescents and young adults (AYAs). The gap in knowledge for this age group may be due to several reasons, one being that AYAs may be treated at either children’s or adult hospitals, so research projects may not fully capture the experience of people initially diagnosed within this age group.

What is new?

This study looked at 34,431 AYA cancer survivors that received their first cancer diagnosis between the ages of 15-39, in Queensland, Australia. In this group of patients, 9% (n=3,086) were diagnosed with a second cancer at least six months after their first diagnosis.

It was found that AYA cancer survivors had a nearly 60% greater risk of developing another cancer compared to the overall population.

Higher relative risk was associated with:

  • Younger age at first diagnosis (15-24 years old).
  • The two-year time period immediately following first diagnosis.
  • Either an anatomic site related to the first cancer or second primary lung cancers.

What does this mean?

Healthcare organisations can better target preventative measures if they know who is at greater risk of developing a second cancer. These measures may include education or screening programs for vulnerable groups. Vigilance regarding the increased possibility of second primary cancers occurring soon after first diagnosis is particularly important for both AYA cancer survivors and their clinicians.

Contact: A/Prof Danny Youlden

Reference: Youlden DR, Roder DM, Walker R, Bradford NK, Aitkin JF. Second primary cancers following cancer among adolescents and young adults in Queensland, Australia, 1982-2013. 2022. doi: 10.1089/jayao.2022.0074.

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