Sleep issues contribute to cognitive problems in childhood cancer survivors

April 11, 2011, Wiley

A new analysis has found that childhood cancer survivors often suffer from sleep problems and fatigue, which negatively impact their attention and memory. Published early online in Cancer, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society, the study indicates that addressing sleep hygiene among survivors of childhood cancer may help to improve their cognitive health.

Cognitive problems, such as trouble with attention and memory, often arise in survivors of childhood cancer. These problems, which are either a direct or indirect result of treatment, negatively impact future education, employment, and the ability to live independently.

To assess the effects of fatigue and sleep disruption on cognitive function in long-term survivors of childhood cancer, Kevin Krull, PhD, of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis and his team evaluated a questionnaire filled out by 1,426 individuals from the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study. (The Childhood Cancer Survivor Study was designed to investigate the long-term medical, psychosocial, and functional health of survivors of eight different childhood cancers who were treated between 1970 and 1986.)

Cognitive impairment was identified in over 20 percent of survivors. Study participants' answers to the questionnaire revealed that long-term survivors of childhood cancer who have problems sleeping or have frequent and fatigue are three to four times more likely to have attention and memory problems than survivors who sleep well. "Since survivors are already at increased risk for attention and memory problems, and fatigue may make these worse," said Dr. Krull.

The investigators found that survivors' cognitive problems that are associated with poor sleep and fatigue are unrelated to the effects of brain radiation, chemotherapy, or the current age of the survivor. Also, cancer survivors who are currently taking antidepressant medications are 50 percent more likely to report attention problems and 70 percent more likely to report .

"These findings suggest that improved sleep quality and reduced fatigue may help to improve attention and memory functions in survivors," said Dr. Krull. He added that these results may generalize to survivors of other medical conditions who demonstrate simultaneous sleep and cognitive problems. Krull also cautions that people taking antidepressant medication should not discontinue use without first consulting with a personal physician.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

New approach attacks 'undruggable' cancers from the outside in

January 23, 2018
Cancer researchers have made great strides in developing targeted therapies that treat the specific genetic mutations underlying a patient's cancer. However, many of the most common cancer-causing genes are so central to ...

Scientists block the siren call of two aggressive cancers

January 23, 2018
Aggressive cancers like glioblastoma and metastatic breast cancer have in common a siren call that beckons the bone marrow to send along whatever the tumors need to survive and thrive.

'Hijacker' drives cancer in some patients with high-risk neuroblastoma

January 23, 2018
Researchers have identified mechanisms that drive about 10 percent of high-risk neuroblastoma cases and have used a new approach to show how the cancer genome "hijacks" DNA that regulates other genes. The resulting insights ...

Enzyme inhibitor combined with chemotherapy delays glioblastoma growth

January 23, 2018
In animal experiments, a human-derived glioblastoma significantly regressed when treated with the combination of an experimental enzyme inhibitor and the standard glioblastoma chemotherapy drug, temozolomide.

Study: Cells of three advanced cancers die with drug-like compounds that reverse chemo failure

January 23, 2018
Researchers at Southern Methodist University have discovered three drug-like compounds that successfully reverse chemotherapy failure in three of the most commonly aggressive cancers—ovarian, prostate and breast.

Researchers identify a protein that keeps metastatic breast cancer cells dormant

January 23, 2018
A study headed by ICREA researcher Roger Gomis at the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona) has identified the genes involved in the latent asymptomatic state of breast cancer metastases. The work sheds light ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.