BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: Health
Front Page 
UK Politics 
Background Briefings 
Medical notes 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Saturday, 23 September, 2000, 23:20 GMT 00:20 UK
Diabetic legacy of childhood cancer
chemotherapy syringe
Powerful chemotherapy can leave children needing transplants
Children who receive bone marrow transplants may be at long-term risk of diabetes, say researchers.

Such transplants, in which bone marrow from a matching donor is used to kick-start the immune system of the patient, are often used as a last resort for children with blood cancers such as leukaemia.

But there is now evidence linking the transplants to problems with insulin - a body chemical which regulates the amount of sugar in the blood.

The latest edition of The Lancet medical journal reports on research from the University of Helsinki in Finland.

A team led by Dr Mervi Taskinen looked at 23 patients who had undergone bone marrow transplantation as either children or adolescents between three and 18 years earlier.

They were compared to patients who were healthy, and others who had suffered from leukaemia - but had not required a bone marrow transplant.

They found that 12 had developed insulin resistance, meaning their tissues were not responding to the vital body chemical as well as they should.

Later diabetes

This is a sign that the patient may go on to develop Type II diabetes at a later stage.

Four of the 23 had actually developed Type II, despite their young ages.

Only one of the leukaemia but no transplant group was found to have any problems related to insulin.

The investigators wrote: "The frequency of insulin resistance increased with the time since transplantation."

Being overweight is one of the most common risk factors for developing this type of diabetes, but few of patients studied were overweight.

A 23-patient study is not large enough to provide strong evidence of a link.

But the authors concluded: "Long-term survivors of bone-marrow transplantation are at substantial risk of insulin resistance, impaired glucose tolerance, and type II diabetes even at normal weight and young age."

They should receive lifelong monitoring, the report concluded.

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
See also:

22 Nov 99 | Medical notes
Leukaemia: Medical notes
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Health stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Health stories