Young cancer survivors at greater risk of heart disease

Scarlette Douglas on hearing Jonnie Irwin's cancer diagnosis

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Published by Wiley, the conclusions of the study were reached after assessing responses from 4,766 young cancer survivors and comparing them with 47,660 controls.

These controls were young people who did not have a history of cancer and the data relied on for the research was taken from the American National Health Interview Survey.

After other factors such as sex, race, ethnicity, income, education, smoking, and physical activity were taken into account, young people with cancer were assessed to have a far higher rate of cardiovascular disease than those who didn’t have a history of the disease.

Writing in their conclusion, the authors said: “Sociodemographic and modifiable risk factors increased the odds of CVD in AYA survivors, in some cases disproportionately, compared with controls.”

Furthermore, they added: “Understanding health behavior trajectories among different sociodemographic populations is needed to identify opportunities to lower the risk of CVD. Performing any MVPA is particularly important for AYA survivors.”

The reason for their observations was because they found there were certain factors which could increase or decrease someone’s risk of heart disease alongside whether or not they had cancer.

These included income, whether or not someone smoked, lack of physical activity, and gender.

Furthermore, lead author of the study Doctor Amy Berkman said: “These results highlight the importance of long-term surveillance of AYAs after cancer treatment to ensure that appropriate screenings are initiated to reduce the risk of CVD and to promote healthy behavioural changes, such as physical activity, which impact long-term CVD outcomes.”

As to whether cancer or the treatment in question had any impact on heart disease, the article did not say.

Furthermore, this is not the first time a study has looked into cancer and its association with cardiovascular conditions.

A study published in the European Heart Journal in 2019 found that cancer patients had a greater risk of dying from heart disease or stroke.

Published by the European Society of Cardiology, the study said around 10 percent of cancer patients do not die from cancer but from problems arising from heart and blood vessel problems instead.

Doctor Kathleen Sturgeon, an assistant professor, said “these findings show that a large proportion of certain cancer patients will die of cardiovascular disease, including heart disease, stroke, aneurysm, high blood pressure and damage to blood vessels.

“We also found that among survivors with any type of cancer diagnosed before the age of 55 years, the risk of cardiovascular death was more than ten-fold greater than in the general population.

“Cancer survivors with cancer of the breast, larynx, skin, Hodgkin lymphoma, thyroid, testis, prostate, endometrium, bladder, vulva, and penis, are about as likely to die of cardiovascular diseases as they are to die of their initial cancer.

“The risk of death from cardiovascular diseases is several times that of the general population in the first year of diagnosis; sometimes, this risk decreases, but for most, this risk increases as survivors are followed for ten years or more”.

Meanwhile, Doctor Nicholas Zaorsky added: “Clinicians need to be aware that the majority of cardiovascular disease deaths occur in patients diagnosed with breast, prostate or bladder cancer.

“Thus, clinics that aim to open ‘cardio-oncology’ centres should likely focus on the inclusion of these sites, followed by the other sites listed above.

“Additionally, primary care physicians and cardiologists may seek to control cardiovascular diseases more aggressively in cancer survivors.”

Although both these studies observed a link between cancer and heart disease, because they were both observational, they cannot say there definitely is a link between one entity and the other.

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