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More Children Suffer from Chronic Disease, Study Finds

The number of children who live with a chronic disease such as asthma or diabetes has quadrupled in the past three decades, according to this week's Journal of the American Medical Association. NewsHour health correspondent Susan Dentzer discusses the findings.

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    In a special issue devoted to childhood diseases, today's Journal of the American Medical Association published a series of studies on the progress and problems of battling cancer, diabetes, and other chronic diseases.

    Nearly 10,000 children will be diagnosed with cancer in the U.S. this year; roughly 80 percent will survive five years or more with treatments. But a report in today's Journal finds many survivors are dealing with serious health problems from those treatments afterwards.

    The Journal also reported rising numbers of children developing either Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes. More than 175,000 people age 20 or younger in the U.S. have diabetes.

    For more on these findings, we turn to Susan Dentzer of our Health Unit. The unit is a partnership with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

    Susan, first, the survivors of childhood cancer, what did the researchers find?

  • SUSAN DENTZER, NewsHour Health Correspondent:

    Well, Judy, as we just said, the good news is that about three in four children treated for cancer in the U.S. and other developed countries, like those in Europe, do survive and go on to live long lives. The question is: What are the burdens that are felt by these survivors over the long period of time?

    And so a Dutch study that was published, as we said, took a look at children who had survived cancer treatment from a children's hospital in Amsterdam over the course of a 30-year period. They found about 1,300 of those survivors, and they asked: What were the long-term consequences? Did they have serious adverse events? Did they have secondary tumors? Did they have heart issues that resulted from their various cancer treatments? Do they have cognitive impairment, other things like that?

    What they found was that — the good news was that 20 percent of children did not have any adverse effects, as they grew up and became young adults and older adults. However, 75 percent of those treated for childhood cancer did have some kind of event, adverse event; 40 percent had a serious or life-threatening event; 25 percent had five or more adverse events.

    And the researchers concluded this was a very high burden of illness to accompany that long-term recovery process.

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