Surviving cancer takes a toll on the heart


A new study shows that children who survive cancer may face another battle-heart disease.


A new study shows that children who survive cancer may face another battle-heart disease.

Researchers have known for some time that childhood cancer survivors can face heart and other health problems decades after cancer treatment, but this is the first study to look at cardiovascular changes while the survivors are still children.

It seems that cancer treatments change children’s arteries in a way that may increase the risk of early heart disease and atherosclerosis, according to research presented in November at the annual meeting of the American Heart Association in Dallas, Texas.

In a poster session titled “Signs of early subclinical atherosclerosis in childhood cancer survivors,” researchers revealed findings from a study involving 319 boys and girls in the United States aged between 9 and 18 years who survived for at least 5 years following treatment for leukemia or some type of cancerous tumor. The researchers measured artery stiffness, thickness, and function.

Compared with 208 siblings who were never diagnosed with cancer, the survivors demonstrated poorer arterial function. The leukemia survivors, for example, demonstrated a 9% decrease in arterial health.

As a result, the investigators say that monitoring these children and managing lifestyle and other risk factors is critical following cancer treatment, especially with the number of childhood cancer survivors growing. According to the National Cancer Society, the 5-year survival rate in 1975 to 1977 was slightly more than half (58.1%). Today, according to the American Childhood Cancer Organization, the 5-year survival rate is around 80%. 



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