Flora E. van Leeuwen and team at the Netherlands Cancer Institute in Amsterdam investigated 2,201 Hodgkin’s lymphoma patients who had received the treatment before age 51 and had survived at least five years after their diagnosis.

The researchers followed-up for a median of 18 years and found that patients were 2.2 times more likely to suffer a stroke and 3.1 times more likely to experience a transient ischemic attack (TIA) than people in the general population. The risk was more if the radiations were given to the head and neck, but it was not same with chemotherapy.

For young survivors of Hodgkin’s lymphoma, who are at especially increased risk of stroke and TIA, physicians should consider appropriate risk-reducing strategies, such as treatment of hypertension and lifestyle changes to reduce the risk of stroke and TIA, van Leeuwen and colleagues wrote.

The findings contribute to the already overwhelming evidence that radiation therapy in Hodgkin’s disease is shortsighted, Dr. Dan L. Longo, of the U.S. National Institute on Aging, wrote in an accompanying editorial.

Unfortunately, given the lifelong increased risks of late effects that have been documented from the use of radiation therapy, we simply cannot keep exposing patients to risk without clear benefit while we wait for safety data to be produced, Longo added. With an alternative therapy at hand that is just as effective…it is simply unjustified to keep using a toxic modality for the next 10 to 20 years.