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Breast cancer treatment does not increase heart disease risk

Tuesday 10th April 2018
Chemotherapy and radiotherapy for breast cancer do not increase the risk of an individual suffering from heart disease, according to new research. Image: kirstypargeter via iStock
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Undergoing chemotherapy or radiotherapy for breast cancer does not increase a patient's risk of heart disease, new research shows.

According to a study carried out by scientists at the German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg, patients who have gone through these forms of treatment are at no greater risk of dying from cardiovascular disease than other members of the population.

In order to arrive at this conclusion, the researchers monitored data relating to 350,000 breast cancer patients from the US, all of whom had been diagnosed with the disease between 2000 and 2011. Each participant had undergone either chemotherapy or radiotherapy, and doctors paid attention to how this affected their long-term health.

It was found that the risk of these individuals being diagnosed with and dying from cardiovascular disease was no greater than that of the rest of the population, indicating that cancer treatments may not be as harmful to the health as originally believed.

What's more, the study authors recognise that the work of cardio-oncology units may be helping to keep this risk low, as treating cancer patients through these clinics means their heart health is assessed and any problems dealt with alongside their receiving cancer therapy.

Hermann Brenner of the German Cancer Research Center commented: "We consider the result of our study to be very positive for the treatment of breast cancer.

"It is particularly good news for the large number of affected patients that if they are in good medical care and have survived breast cancer, they do not need to be more worried about deadly heart diseases that women at the same age without breast cancer."

Janick Weberpals, first author of the study, added that the researchers were "surprised by this result" initially, but they actually believe their results to be more accurate than those of a clinical trial assessing the matter would have been.

This is because clinical trial participants are selected in line with specific criteria, whereas this investigation incorporated data relating to all of the cancer patients included in one registry.

Written by Mathew Horton

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