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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

UNC: 5-year Survival Rates Have Improved — for Some Cancers — in Adolescents and Young Adults

The 5-year survival rate for adolescents and young adults with cancer significantly improved from 1975 to 2005 in the United States overall, but this was not the case for all cancers, according to a report in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

“We are making improvements in survival for adolescents and young adults with cancer over time, but adolescents and young adults are a heterogeneous group. We have to make sure that overall improvements don’t hide the fact that there are specific cancer types that haven’t had equivalent advances,” said senior study author Dr. Hazel B. Nichols, an associate professor of epidemiology in the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health and member of the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.

The researchers identified substantial improvements in 5-year mortality rates for adolescents and young adults (AYA) diagnosed with leukemia, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, Hodgkin lymphoma, central nervous system tumors, melanoma and other skin cancers, breast cancer or kidney cancer.

However, 5-year mortality rates for AYA patients with bone tumors, soft tissue sarcomas, bladder cancer, cervical and uterine cancers, or colorectal cancer did not improve across the more than 30-year time period.

“Some of the most dramatic improvements were for leukemia and non-Hodgkin lymphoma,” Dr. Nichols explained. “If you were diagnosed with leukemia in 1975, the mortality between five and 10 years was almost 30 percent. If you were diagnosed with the same disease in 2005, the mortality rate was only 7 percent.”

To continue improving outcomes and providing support for adolescents and young adults, UNC Lineberger and the North Carolina Cancer Hospital have launched a program for cancer patients between the ages of 13 and 40.

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