09 November 2016

Young cancer survivors may risk heart disease later on

Research has found that cancer treatment during childhood may boost the risk of death from heart disease later in life.


The age at which cancer survivors are diagnosed with their disease may help predict their risk of death from heart disease, new research suggests.

Serious heart risks

Patients diagnosed at a younger age may face a higher heart risk, the study authors said.

Cancer treatment is thought to boost the risk of death from heart disease later on, particularly among survivors of childhood cancer, breast cancer and Hodgkin lymphoma, the researchers said.

This new study, published in Circulation, explored whether the age of cancer diagnosis might influence serious heart risks.

"It is important for clinicians because it helps them focus the most intensive follow-up care on those most at risk," said study senior author Mike Hawkins. He's director of the Centre for Childhood Cancer Survivor Studies at the University of Birmingham in England.

Read: Childhood cancer: Know the facts

"It is important for survivors because it empowers them by providing them with their long-term chances of a specific side effect of cancer treatment," Hawkins said in a journal news release.

The new study analysed data on more than 200,000 cancer survivors in the United Kingdom. They were between ages 15 and 39 when diagnosed and survived at least five years.

Impact of young age

The researchers found that six percent of the deaths were attributed to heart disease. And those diagnosed in their teens had a more than four-fold higher risk of death from heart disease than people who didn't have cancer.

Those diagnosed at ages 35 to 39 had only a 1.2 times higher risk of heart disease compared to similar-aged people, the study found.

The impact of young age at diagnosis seemed to be most crucial in survivors of Hodgkin lymphoma: 7 percent of those diagnosed from ages 15 to 19 died of heart disease by age 55 compared to 2 percent of those diagnosed in their late 30s.

Read: Brain cancer now leading childhood cancer killer

Less than one percent of people in the general population would be expected to die by 55 of heart disease, the researchers noted.

Overall, Hodgkin lymphoma survivors were 3.8 times more likely to die from heart disease than people of similar age who didn't have the disease.

Survivors of other types of cancer – leukaemia, lung cancer and breast cancer, among them – also faced a higher risk of death from heart disease, the researchers said.

The study participants were diagnosed between 1971 and 2006, and followed until 2014.


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