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CDC: Surviving cancer 'ages' the heart, increasing heart disease risk

Cancer survivors are at increased risk for heart disease because of its effects on the organ, new CDC research shows. Illustration courtesy Abiomed
Cancer survivors are at increased risk for heart disease because of its effects on the organ, new CDC research shows. Illustration courtesy Abiomed

Jan. 7 (UPI) -- Surviving cancer "ages" a person's heart by up to nine years, an analysis released Thursday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found.

Adult male cancer survivors were found to have hearts that appeared 8 1/2 years older than their actual age, based on their overall health, the data showed.

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Women who survived the disease were found to have hearts that appeared to be 6 1/2 years older, the researchers said.

"The management of cardiovascular complications and involvement of cardiologists in the integrated approach of cardio-oncology is becoming more important given the steady increase in cancer survival," the CDC researchers wrote.

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Past research has found that adult cancer survivors are at increased risk for heart disease due to greater excess heart age compared to non-cancer survivors, they said.

Among cancer survivors, risk for heart disease varies by age, race and ethnicity, education and income, as well as other factors, according to the CDC.

Heart age is used as an assessment for heart disease risk. It measures the age of the heart and blood vessels based on the effects of body weight, cholesterol and smoking history, among other factors, all of which increase a person's risk for heart attack and stroke.

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For this study, the CDC researchers looked at the heart age of nearly 850,000 adults 30 to 74 years old in the United States, nearly 70,000 of whom were cancer survivors.

Male cancer survivors were estimated to have an excess heart age, or age of the heart above their chronological age, of 8 1/2 years, compared to 7.9 years in men with no history of cancer.

Female cancer survivors were estimated to have an excess heart age, of 6 1/2 years, compared to 5.3 years in women with no history of cancer, the researchers said.

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These higher excess heart ages place them at increased risk heart attack and stroke, as well as other heart problems, according to the CDC.

"Certain cancer therapies may further increase the risk of cardiovascular events among cancer survivors," the agency said in a press release.

"Healthcare providers can counsel cancer survivors regarding risk factors that may contribute to excess heart age, such as tobacco use, physical inactivity and poor diet," the agency said.

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