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Cancer. 2007 Apr 1;109(7):1420-31.

Osteopenia and cancer in children and adolescents: the fragility of success.

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Department of Pediatrics, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.


The attainment of a satisfactory peak bone mass, which is accomplished largely by the end of adolescence, is the best protection against excessive bone mineral loss in late adulthood. Factors that influence this process include age, race, sex, body size, pubertal status, diet, physical activity, and other lifestyle elements. Cancer and its treatment in children and teenagers adversely impact bone mineralization. In particular, chemotherapy (especially glucocorticosteroids and methotrexate) and cranial irradiation (apparently by reducing growth hormone secretion and by causing hypogonadotropic hypogonadism) interfere with normal bone turnover. Resorption often exceeds formation, resulting in net bone mineral loss and providing a rational basis for the use of antiresorptive drugs. Such osteopenia may be symptomatic, with pain and abnormal gait, and increases the risk of fractures several fold. The disorder is compounded by reduced physical activity, so programs to reduce this deficit are of measurable benefit. All of those engaged in the care of children and adolescents with cancer have an opportunity to improve the bone health of these young people and to limit their risk of developing osteoporosis and fragility fractures in adult life.

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