Risk of second cancers in the era of modern radiation therapy: does the risk/benefit analysis overcome theoretical models?

Chargari, C. et al. Cancer and Metastasis Reviews. pp 1-12. First online: 12 March 2016

N0037758 Radiographer with a Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy unit
Image source: David Bishop, Royal Free Hospital London – Wellcome Images

In the era of modern radiation therapy, the compromise between the reductions in deterministic radiation-induced toxicities through highly conformal devices may be impacting the stochastic risk of second malignancies.

We reviewed the clinical literature and evolving theoretical models evaluating the impact of intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) on the risk of second cancers, as a consequence of the increase in volumes of normal tissues receiving low doses.

The risk increase (if any) is not as high as theoretical models have predicted in adults. Moreover, the increase in out-of-field radiation doses with IMRT could be counterbalanced by the decrease in volumes receiving high doses. Clinical studies with short follow-up have not corroborated the hypothesis that IMRT would drastically increase the incidence of second cancers. In children, the risk of radiation-induced carcinogenesis increases from low doses and consequently the relative risk of second cancers after IMRT could be higher than in adults, justifying current developments of proton therapy with priority given to this population.

Although only longer follow-up will allow a true assessment of the real impact of these modern techniques on radiation-induced carcinogenesis, a comprehensive risk-adapted strategy will help minimize the probability of second cancers.

Read the abstract here

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