Slight Increased Risk of Blood Cancer Following Breast Cancer

Slight, but increased risk of developing blood cancer exists following treatment for adjuvant breast cancer. These results were recently published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Due to the toxicity of some types of treatment for breast cancer, there is a slight, but increased risk of developing secondary cancers, particularly cancers of the blood.

However, the long-term risk of developing a secondary cancer is not well-known, and researchers continue to evaluate data to confirm that benefits significantly outweigh the risks of treatment.

Researchers recently examined data from over 20,000 patients with early-stage breast cancer who were treated between 1998 and 2007. The subsequent risk of developing a type of cancer affecting the blood, such as leukemia and myelodysplastic syndromes, was evaluated at 5 and 10 years following treatment.

· At 5 years, the increased risk of developing a blood cancer was 0.24%

· At 10 years, the increased risk of developing a blood cancer was 0.48%

· Patients who were older had a greater risk compared to those who were younger

· Patients who were treated with chemotherapy, with or without radiation therapy, had a significantly greater risk of developing a secondary blood cancer compared to those treated with surgery only.

The researchers concluded that treatment including chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy increases the risk of developing a blood cancer, even at 10 years following therapy. However, it is important for patients to understand that this risk remains very low, particularly compared with the survival benefit achieved from the additional therapy.

Patients with breast cancer should speak with their healthcare provider regarding their individual risks and benefits of all treatment options.

Reference: Wolff A, Blackford A, Visvanathan K, et al. Risk of marrow neoplasms after adjuvant breast cancer therapy: the National Comprehensive Cancer Network Experience. Journal of Clinical Oncology. 2014.