Adult cancer survivors have a higher risk of cardiovascular diseases later in life when compared with adults without cancer.
In a long-term study following around 12,000 people, researchers from Johns Hopkins Medicine have discovered a link between cancer and cardiovascular diseases, highlighting that cancer survivors are a high-risk group.
The researchers found that adult cancer survivors had a 42% greater risk of cardiovascular diseases than individuals without cancer. The researchers found adult cancer survivors had a 52% higher risk of developing heart failure and a 22% higher risk of stroke. Though, there were no profound differences in coronary heart disease risk between those with or without cancer.
The full study is published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
Does the type of cancer determine the risk of cardiovascular diseases?
To establish if the type of cancer influenced the risk of cardiovascular diseases, the researchers examined different cancers. They found that breast, lung, colorectal and haematological/lymphatic cancers were significantly associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular diseases, although prostate cancer was not.
“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,” said Elizabeth Selvin, PhD, MPH, professor of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and senior author of the study. “Cancer survivors are a high-risk population and should be prioritised for interventions that lower the chance of heart disease later in life.”
Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study: analysing 12,414 participants
The study utilised data from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study, researching cardiovascular diseases and their risk factors. The study involved 12,414 participants, with a mean age of 54, who were examined through 2020. There was a total of 3,250 diagnosed with cancer.
The study was not designed to pinpoint the reasons for increased cardiovascular disease risk in cancer survivors. Roberta Florido, MD, MHS, assistant professor of medicine and director of cardio-oncology at the Johns Hopkins University, said the main hypothesis involved a combination of cancer and noncancer-related factors, such as inflammation, oxidative stress, cardiac toxicity from specific cancer treatments and traditional risk factors like hypertension, diabetes, and obesity. However, it is crucial that although the higher risk of cardiovascular diseases in this group were not fully associated with traditional cardiovascular risk factors, it remains vital to address the risk factors common in cancer survivors.
In the study, it was illuminated that cardiac toxicity from cancer therapies, or negative cardiac effects of cancer therapies, may pose a particular risk for increasing the prevalence of cardiovascular diseases in some cancer survivors. Specifically, in breast and blood cancer survivors, there was a higher risk of cardiovascular diseases, and these cancers are treated with chemotherapy and chest radiation that can damage the heart. On the other hand, there was no link between heightened cardiovascular disease risk and prostate cancer survivors; this could be a result of their treatment types, typically involving active surveillance or local therapies.
“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,” said Florido. “This could lead to more targeted preventive strategies for this population.”