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Open Access Open Badges Research article

Late somatic sequelae after treatment of childhood cancer in Slovenia

Nuša Erman1, Ljupčo Todorovski1* and Berta Jereb2

Author Affiliations

1 Faculty of Administration, University of Ljubljana, Gosarjeva 5, SI-1000, Ljubljana, Slovenia

2 Institute of Oncology Ljubljana, Zaloška cesta 2, SI-1000, Ljubljana, Slovenia

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BMC Research Notes 2012, 5:254  doi:10.1186/1756-0500-5-254

Published: 24 May 2012



This is a long-term follow-up clinical study of adolescents and adults, survivors of childhood cancer. We evaluate and analyze the late somatic sequelae of childhood cancer treatment. Many such studies are susceptible to a strong selection bias, i.e., they employ a limited non-systematic sample of patients, based on a clinical hospital that provided the cancer treatment or performed the follow-up. To address the issue of selection bias, we perform here an analysis of late sequelae on a systematic database of the entire population of the children treated for cancer in Slovenia. Due to the specifics of cancer treatment procedures in Slovenia, they have all been treated and followed-up in the same clinic.


The data are based on the centralized registry of cancer patients in Slovenia and present a controlled and homogeneous collection. Late sequelae are evaluated following a modified CTCAE, i.e., the National Cancer Institute’s Common Terminology Criteria for Adverse Events version 3.0. We use survival analysis method to estimate the incidence of and risk for late sequelae, where the time variable is measured in years from the diagnosis date, while we follow the event of incidence of late sequelae scored other than none. Survival analysis is performed using KaplanMeier estimator and Cox regression model.


The incidence of mild, moderate, or severe late sequelae of childhood cancer treatment significantly decreased from 75% in the group of patients diagnosed before 1975 to 55% for those diagnosed after 1995. The Cox regression analysis of the risk factors for the incidence of late sequelae identifies three significant factors: treatment modalities, age at diagnosis, and primary diagnosis.


The change of treatment modalities in terms of replacement of surgery and radiotherapy with chemotherapy is the main reason for the decrease of the incidence and the risk for late sequelae of childhood cancer treatment; treatment modalities including surgery significantly increase the risk ratio of late sequelae, while those based on chemotherapy only significantly decreases the risk. Risk of late sequelae increases with the diagnosis age: younger children are more susceptible to late effects of treatment. Finally, primary diagnosis significantly influences the risk for late sequelae, but mostly due to the dependency of the treatment modality on the primary diagnosis.