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Heart Disease Is Lasting Threat to Breast Cancer Survivors

FRIDAY, June 21, 2019 (HealthDay News) -- Postmenopausal women who survive breast cancer may have a higher risk for developing heart disease, a new study says.

Heart problems can appear more than five years after radiation treatment for breast cancer, and the added risk persists for as much as 30 years, according to Brazilian researchers.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in older women.

"Heart disease appears more commonly in women treated for breast cancer because of the toxicities of chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and use of aromatase inhibitors, which lower estrogen. Heart-healthy lifestyle modifications will decrease both the risk of recurrent breast cancer and the risk of developing heart disease," said Dr. JoAnn Pinkerton, executive director of the North American Menopause Society (NAMS).

In this study, researchers led by Dr. Daniel de Araujo Brito Buttros, from Botucatu Medical School at Sao Paulo State University, compared and evaluated heart disease risk factors in 96 postmenopausal breast cancer survivors and 192 women without breast cancer.

The investigators found that cancer survivors were much more likely to have metabolic syndrome, diabetes, atherosclerosis, abdominal obesity and high triglyceride levels in their blood. All are major risk factors for heart disease.

The risk of heart-related death among breast cancer survivors was similar to the risk of death from breast cancer itself.

The study was recently published online in Menopause, the journal of NAMS. The findings suggest that women consider including a cardiologist in their cancer treatment decisions.

"Women should schedule a cardiology consultation when breast cancer is diagnosed and continue with ongoing follow-up after cancer treatments are completed," Pinkerton advised in a journal news release.

More information

The nonprofit organization Susan G. Komen has more on later effects of breast cancer treatment.

SOURCE: North American Menopause Society, news release, June 18, 2019

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