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Pediatric Cancer Survivors Face Higher Heart Disease Risk

These risk factors for heart disease are being found at an earlier age than in the general population, according to research published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.

An estimated 80 million Americans have cardiovascular disease according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance 2010 Fact Book.  Someone suffers a heart attack every 34 seconds the report notes.

Researchers at Emory University, extracted data from the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study, which included 8,599 cancer survivors and 2,936 of their siblings.  In data previously published from the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study, pediatric cancer survivors were found to be at almost 10-fold greater risk for cardiovascular disease than their non-survivor counterparts. 

In this study scientists identified whether the predisposing risk factors for cardiovascular disease — obesity, hypertension, hyperlipidemea and diabetes — were present at higher rates compared to siblings. If the risk factors could be recognized and treated early it is hoped some of the long-term cardiac side effects could be averted. 

They found that cancer survivors were nearly twice as likely as their siblings to take medication for high blood pressure, 60 percent more likely to take cholesterol medication and 70 percent more likely to have diabetes. 

Radiation treatment may be playing a role in the development of risk factors for cardiovascular disease.  Total body irradiation was linked with a 5.5-fold increased risk and chest and abdomen radiation a 2.2-fold increased risk of cardiovascular risk factor clustering, which when present is associated with subsequent cardiovascular disease. 

Researchers examined the presence of cardiovascular risk factors and found that physical inactivity among cancer survivors was linked with a 70 percent increased risk for cardiovascular risk factor clustering. Older age at the time of the study was linked to an 8.2-fold increased risk for cardiovascular risk factor clustering among survivors compared with children who had never had cancer.

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