JUN 29, 2022 7:07 PM PDT

New Study Shows Higher Risk of Cardiovascular Disease in Adult Cancer Survivors

WRITTEN BY: Zoe Michaud

With modern diagnostics and treatments, cancer survival rates continue to improve. Though numbers vary depending on the type of cancer and the stage at which treatment begins, more than 80% of adult patients diagnosed with cancer survive long term. As a result, researchers are beginning to emphasize the importance of understanding the long-term complications of cancer and cancer treatments.

A recent study published in The Journal of American College of Cardiology which examined the long-term health of 3,250 participants after cancer remission found an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke in this cohort. 

Elizabeth Selvin, Ph.D., M.P.H., one of the authors of the paper, stated that “major advances in cancer treatment mean that patients are living longer and longer. This means we now need to pay attention to other chronic diseases, especially heart disease, in cancer survivors.”

In the general population, factors such as obesity, high blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and diabetes are all known to increase the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. The researchers involved in this study hypothesize that the increased risk of cardiovascular disease in cancer survivors stems from a different group of risk factors. While the normal risk factors are still impactful, inflammation, oxidative stress, and cardiac toxicity as a result of some cancer treatments are all additional risk factors for this group. 

The increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease was highest among survivors of blood and breast cancer. Since these cancers are typically treated through a combination of chemotherapy and chest radiation, some patients experience cardiac toxicity and damage to the heart as a result.

A key takeaway from the publication is that cancer survivors and their physicians can prioritize preventative measures to lower the chance of heart disease later in life. Recognizing the increased risk of cardiovascular disease in this population could change the way physicians approach long-term care for cancer survivors. 

“More research is needed to better understand why cancer survivors have a greater risk of CVD and whether this is partly explained by the negative cardiac effects of some cancer therapies,” says study author Roberta Florido, M.D., M.H.S.. “This could lead to more targeted preventive strategies for this population.”

Sources: Journal of the American College of Cardiology

About the Author
Biology
Zoe (she/her) is a science writer and a scientist working in genomics. She received her B.S. from the University of Connecticut with a focus in Evolutionary Biology. At Labroots, she focuses on writing scientific content related to clinical research and diagnostics.
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