March 18, 2024

Researchers develop tool to predict likelihood of premature menopause in childhood cancer survivors

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(Photo: School of Public Health)

Researchers have developed a statistical model that predicts the likelihood of female childhood cancer survivors developing premature menopause as they grow up, which could help doctors personalize treatment and counselling options for patients.

“We aimed to develop and validate models to predict age-specific risk among long-term survivors of childhood cancer, and our model showed robust prediction performance,” says Yan Yuan, a professor in the University of Alberta’s School of Public Health who led the research team that developed the tool, including an online calculator to help patients assess their risk.

Primary ovarian insufficiency, also known as premature menopause, is the term used to describe when a woman’s ovaries stop working normally before the age of 40. Yuan and her co-authors note that seven per cent of childhood cancer survivors develop the condition within five years of their cancer diagnosis, and it is estimated that another 12 per cent develop it more than five years after diagnosis, compared with just one to two per cent of the general population.

The study involved a group of cancer patients under the age of 21 treated at more than 30 hospitals across North America between 1970 and 1999. Female survivors aged 18 years or older at their latest followup examination, with self-reported menstrual history information and free of subsequent malignant neoplasms within five years of diagnosis, were included in the study.

“We found a very strong signal in the life-saving treatments used by oncologists,” says Yuan. “Different treatments, such as radiation or various chemotherapy drugs, can have very different effects. We evaluated 20 chemotherapy drugs, and some cause more damage to the ovary than others. The dosage and age of the patient are also important factors.

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