Childhood Cancer Survivors at Increased Risk of Adult Heart Problems

A new study published in the European Heart Journal concluded that survivors of childhood cancer are at increased risk of suffering prematurely from cardiovascular disease in adulthood.

In the study survivors of childhood cancer were followed into adulthood and compared with a non cancer sample from the general population,. The study population as adults were at higher risk of high blood pressure and dyslipidaemia (unusually high levels of cholesterol and other fats in the blood)  These conditions appeared 6 and 8 years earlier than in the general population controls. In addition, the childhood survivors had a nearly two fold increase risk of cardiovascular diseases such as congestive heart failure, and venous thromboembolism. Cardiovascular  disease was found in 4.5% of survivors and occurred in the majority before the age of 40 and nearly eight years earlier than the general population control.

Between October 2013 and February, 2016, a total of 951 adult long term survivors of childhood cancer underwent a clinical exam that included assessing factors that might put them at higher risk of cardiovascular disease, such as high blood pressure, and dyslipidaemia. Their medical history such as whether or not they smoked and whether there were family members with a history of cardiovascular disease was examined. The survivors ages range from 23 to 48 at follow up and the general population control numbered 15,000. Researchers concluded “Our results show that these survivors of childhood cancer have a substantially elevated burden of prematurely occurring traditional cardiovascular risk factors and cardiovascular disease.” Many of the survivors were unaware of their cardiovascular risk prior to the study.

The most common cardiovascular risk factors identified were high blood pressure and dyslipidaemia that involved 23% and 28% respectively whereas diabetes was only found in 2%. These conditions also occurred earlier than in the general population control.  At least one cardiovascular disease was found in 4.5% of the survivors and tthe most common was that affected 2%. venous thromboembolism.  In addition, 1.2% had congestive heart failure, 0.5% had stroke or peripheral artery disease,, and 0.4% had atrial fibrillation.

Researchers said treatment of childhood cancer include chemotherapy and radiation can affect the heart causing temporary or permanent damage to heart cells and blood vessels. Further research is planned.

 

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