Cardiovascular Disease

Increased CVD Risk for Cancer Survivors

While breakthrough cancer treatments are helping cancer survivors live longer, researchers are learning that survivors face an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease later in life. 

Johns Hopkins researchers tracked 12,414 study participants’ cardiovascular disease outcomes over a median of 13.6 years (3,250 with a history of cancer). When researchers adjusted for age, sex, race, and education level, they found that cancer survivors had: 

  • 42% higher risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • 59% higher risk of heart failure.

Traditional risk factors, like BMI, cholesterol levels, and drinking and smoking status, could not fully explain the excess risk. Even when adjusting for these variables, researchers found that cancer survivors demonstrated:

  • 37% higher risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • 52% higher risk of heart failure. 

Increased risk levels varied by cancer type. Breast, lung, colorectal, and hematologic/lymphatic cancers were significantly associated with CVD risk, while prostate cancer was not. 

The authors suspect a combination of cancer and noncancer factors is driving survivors’ elevated CVD risks. Possible culprits include genetic predisposition, exposure to toxicities during cancer therapy, and inflammation and oxidative stress associated with cancer.

The Takeaway

It appears that cancer survivors face a higher risk of developing CVD, suggesting that as cancer treatments continue to improve, cardiologists will see even more survivors in their exam rooms. 

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