23 Jun Study warns of increased risks to heart health after breast cancer treatment
New research warns that, after completing breast cancer treatment, women aged 45 and over
have a heightened risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), breast cancer is the most common form of
cancer that doctors diagnose among women across all the world's populations. At the same time,
however, it is also one of the most treatable forms of cancer.
Yet although life expectancy is on the rise for females who undergo breast cancer treatment,
they, nevertheless, face a number of health risks in the aftermath of therapy.
Late side effects can include damage to the bones, premature menopause symptoms, and poor
A new study from the Botucatu Medical School at Paulista State University in Sao Paulo, Brazil,
confirms that women of more than 45 years of age who have undergone breast cancer treatment
have a heightened risk of developing cardiovascular problems.
The study's findings — which appear online ahead of print in the journal Menopause of the
North American Menopause Society (NAMS) — also explain why women who have
experienced breast cancer are more at risk of heart disease.
"In addition to toxicity from chemotherapy or radiation therapy, many women go on
antiestrogens if they have an estrogen sensitive breast cancer. Loss of estrogen may be associated
with higher risk of heart disease," Dr. JoAnn Pinkerton, the executive director of NAMS —
although not involved in the current study — explained.
In the study, first author Dr. Daniel de Araujo Brito Buttros and colleagues worked with 288
female participants. Of these, 96 had successfully completed breast cancer treatment, while 192
were completely healthy, and had never experienced breast cancer.
All the women were 45 years old and over, and had gone through menopause. None of them had
established cardiovascular disease.
The researchers' analysis revealed that, when they compared them with women over 45 who
never experienced breast cancer, those who had received breast cancer treatment had a much
higher likelihood of having metabolic syndrome, diabetes, atherosclerosis, hypertriglyceridemia
(elevated blood levels of fatty molecules), as well as abdominal obesity.
All of these conditions are top risk factors for developing cardiovascular disease. Moreover,
these women's risk of cardiovascular, event-related death was increased, matching death rates
that experts associate with a breast cancer diagnosis.
"About 1 in 8 women in the United States will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of
their lives. In 2019, an estimated 268,600 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be
diagnosed in women in the U.S., along with 62,930 new cases of noninvasive (in situ) breast
cancer," Dr. Pinkerton said.
"As of January 2019, there are more than 3.1 million women with a history of breast cancer in
the U.S. This includes women currently being treated and women who have finished treatment,"
Since so many women are likely to receive breast cancer treatment, it is important that they
speak to their doctors to receive advice about any late side effects or health risks, so that they can
take adequate measures to prevent these.