Young adults’ cancer survival rates jump in surprising new study

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Young Americans with cancer have a far better prognosis than once thought due to a surprising new discovery about the role of HIV/AIDS, fundamentally altering a long-standing narrative about their cancer mortality, according to new findings by USC scientists.

For decades, some researchers believed cancer survival rates were dismally low among adolescents and young adults in the United States. But a review of long-term data by researchers at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and the Los Angeles Cancer Surveillance Program shows that 15- to 39-year-olds had the best survival of any age group for many years, and maintained that lead until pediatric cancer survival caught up.

That fact shows clearly once the rise and fall of HIV/AIDs-related cancers are considered — a re-evaluation not done before. The findings appear in the Oct. 15 Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

“Those earlier statistics were not wrong. They just weren’t reexamined until now,” said senior author Dennis Deapen, director of the Los Angeles cancer registry and a professor of clinical preventive medicine at the Keck School of Medicine. “We need accurate cancer survival statistics to evaluate treatment results and set clinical guidelines and research priorities. When we talk to patients, we want to provide hope, backed by data.”

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— Leigh Hopper