Sleep Problems May Linger After Childhood Cancer

Survivors face memory, attention deficits due to fatigue years later, study suggests

MONDAY, April 11 (HealthDay News) -- Sleep problems and fatigue are common among childhood cancer survivors and can impair their attention and memory, researchers say.

The finding was based on the analysis of questionnaires completed by 1,426 participants in the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study, an investigation of long-term outcomes of survivors of eight different childhood cancers who were treated between 1970 and 1986.

More than 20 percent of participants reported cognitive impairment, such as trouble with attention and memory. The study authors found that survivors who have sleep problems or frequent daytime sleepiness or fatigue were three to four times more likely to have attention and memory problems than those who said they sleep well.

Childhood cancer survivors are already at increased risk for cognitive problems due to the direct or indirect result of treatment. These findings suggest that poor sleep and fatigue may make these cognitive problems worse, said Kevin Krull, of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis.

He and his colleagues found that cognitive problems caused by lack of sleep and fatigue are not related to the effects of brain radiation, chemotherapy or the current age of the childhood cancer survivor.

In addition, childhood cancer survivors currently taking antidepressants are 70 percent more likely to report memory problems and 50 percent more likely to report attention problems, according to the study, which was released online in advance of publication in an upcoming print issue of the journal Cancer.

"These findings suggest that improved sleep quality and reduced fatigue may help to improve attention and memory functions in survivors," Krull said in a journal news release.

More information

The American Society of Clinical Oncology has more about childhood cancer survivors.

Robert Preidt SOURCE: Cancer, news release, April 11, 2011

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