Children With Cancer at Risk for Fragile Bones

Lack of exercise plus treatment side effects are to blame, experts say

MONDAY, Feb. 26, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- Children battling cancer may also have weaker bones, new research shows.

Normally, bones maintain their strength by balancing the processes of laying down materials that give bone its strength and breaking bone down. But certain factors, including menopause, drugs, diet and physical exercise, can influence bone strength.

Studies have shown that children with cancers have multiple risk factors for osteoporosis and bone fractures.

In their report, to be published in the April 1 issue of Cancer, researchers from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, reviewed the topic of pediatric cancer, bone loss and management.

The researchers found that the sedentary behaviors caused by their illness, coupled with the side effects of treatment, leave children with cancer at risk for bone problems during their lifetime, including bone necrosis and fractures related to osteoporosis.

Low bone mineral density (BMD) may persist for years after cancer treatment and is associated with symptoms ranging from bone pain to fractures. In fact, the risk of fractures in children with low BMD increases several-fold.

Fortunately, there are treatments available to stimulate bone mineralization and minimize bone loss. These treatments include physical activity and dietary modification, as well as the use of bisphosphonates, medications that treat osteoporosis in postmenopausal women.

The authors of the study concluded that bone problems are a common side effect of cancer treatment in children, and it is important to utilize strategies to treat and prevent this cancer-related bone loss.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases has more about kids and their bones.

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