Cancer survivors face higher heart risks later

News Image: Cancer survivors face higher heart risks laterBy Steven Reinberg Health Day Reporter

THURSDAY, June 30, 2022 (HealthDay News)

If you survive cancer, you’re more likely to have heart problems later on, according to a new study.

The researchers found that compared to others, cancer survivors had a 42% higher risk of heart disease, likely due to damage resulting from cancer treatment.

“There are chemotherapy that can damage the heart, and radiation to the chest can also affect the heart,” said lead researcher Dr. Roberta Florido, director of cardio-oncology at Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore. “It is therefore possible that these therapies, in the long term, increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.”

The risk of heart failure after cancer was particularly high: 52%. The risk of stroke also increased by 22%. There was, however, no significantly higher risk of heart attack or coronary heart disease.

For the study, Florido and his colleagues collected data on more than 12,400 men and women who were part of a study looking at cardiovascular disease risk from 1987 to 2020. Of the participants, more than 3,200 developed cancer during this time.

Those most at risk of heart disease were breast, lung and colon cancer survivors, according to the study. Blood and lymph cancers also increased the risk of heart disease.

Prostate cancer, on the other hand, did not. It’s rarely treated with aggressive therapies that can affect the heart, Florido said.

Heart problems can develop during cancer treatment or months or years afterward, she said.

“Even if you don’t develop any problems during treatment, this increased risk will persist throughout your life,” Florido said. “Just because you didn’t develop heart failure during chemotherapy doesn’t mean that 10 to 15 years later you won’t develop it. You’re still at a higher risk of developing heart failure than patients who have not received these therapies.”

Florido said many doctors aren’t aware of the increased risk, but they and their patients need to be aware of it.

“I hope data like this will raise awareness among oncologists and primary care providers, who are often the doctors who follow cancer survivors,” she said.

Cancer survivors, meanwhile, need to take appropriate steps to reduce their risk of heart disease, Florido said.

“If you’ve had cancer, you need to be very aggressive and manage all your other cardiovascular risk factors, your blood pressure, your cholesterol, if you have diabetes, maintain a healthy weight, exercise, eat a healthy diet, because just having had cancer in the past puts you at high risk of developing cardiovascular disease,” she said.


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Dr. Gregg Fonarow, acting chief of UCLA’s division of cardiology, said the growing population of cancer survivors has drawn more attention to how cancer and his treatment affect other aspects of health. He was not involved in the new study, but reviewed the results.

Fonarow noted that numerous studies have suggested that heart disease and heart risk factors are common among cancer survivors. The current study noted that heart disease is the number one cause of death for some cancer survivors.

“These findings suggest that adult cancer survivors may need increased detection and monitoring of cardiovascular disease and heart failure, as well as better implementation of cardiovascular disease prevention strategies and heart failure,” Fonarow said.

The results were published online June 27 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

More information

The American Heart Association has more information on heart disease.

SOURCES: Roberta Florido, MD, MHS, assistant professor, medicine, and director, cardio-oncology, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore; Gregg Fonarow, MD, acting chief, division of cardiology, UCLA, Los Angeles; Journal of the American College of CardiologyJune 27, 2022, online

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