Children who survive cancer
often have treatment-related changes to their arteries that may put them at
risk for heart disease while still in childhood, a new study says.
The finding suggests
doctors need to monitor these patients earlier, and manage their risk factors
for heart diseases while they are still young.
"Research has shown
childhood cancer survivors face heart and other health problems decades after
treatment," study author Donald Dengel, a kinesiology professor at the
University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, said in an American Heart Association
news release. "But researchers had not, until now, looked at the heart
health effects of childhood cancer treatment while survivors are still
The researchers assessed
artery stiffness, thickness and function in more than 300 boys and girls, ages
9 to 18, who had survived at least five years since their diagnosis of leukaemia
or cancerous tumours. Arteries are blood vessels that take blood away from the
These patients were compared
with more than 200 siblings who did not have cancer.
The childhood cancer
survivors were more likely to have a decline in arterial function that
indicated premature heart disease, according to the study, scheduled for
presentation Sunday at the annual meeting of the American Heart Association in
The researchers also found
that childhood leukaemia survivors had a 9% decrease in arterial health after
completing chemotherapy, compared to the children without cancer.
"Given this increased
risk, children who survive cancer should make lifestyle changes to lower their
cardiovascular risk," Dengel said. "Health care providers who are
managing chemotherapy-treated childhood cancer survivors need to monitor
cardiovascular risk factors immediately following the completion of their
patients' cancer therapy."
The children in the study
were predominantly white, so the findings might not apply to other racial and
ethnic groups. In addition, the researchers were unable to link heart changes
to any specific chemotherapy agent.
The five-year survival rate
for childhood cancers in the United States increased from about 58% in 1975-77
to about 83% in 2003-09.
The US National Cancer
Institute talks about late effects of childhood cancer treatment.