Cancer appears to increase the risk of heart disease and stroke

Cancer appears to increase the risk of heart disease and stroke

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Cancer patients often do not die from cancer

More than one in ten cancer patients do not die from cancer, but from heart and vascular problems. This emerges from a new study published in the "European Heart Journal". In some cancers, such as breast, prostate, uterine and thyroid cancer, about half die from cardiovascular diseases.

As part of the study, the researchers compared Dr. Nicholas Zaorsky, a radiation oncologist, and Dr. Kathleen Sturgeon, an assistant professor of health sciences, both at Penn State College of Medicine and at the Penn State Cancer Institute in Hershey, Pennsylvania, United States, the U.S. general population with over 3.2 million U.S. patients with whom between 1973 and diagnosed with cancer in 2012.

Particularly high risk in the first year after diagnosis

As the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) said in a statement, the researchers used data from the SEER Cancer Registry to analyze deaths from cardiovascular diseases, including heart disease and high blood pressure. The analysis included 28 different types of cancer.

Of the 3,234,256 cancer patients, 38 percent (1,228,328) died of cancer and eleven percent (365,689) of cardiovascular diseases. Cardiovascular deaths accounted for 76 percent of heart disease and the risk of cardiovascular disease was highest in the first year after cancer diagnosis and in patients under 35 years of age.

The majority of deaths from cardiovascular disease occurred in breast cancer patients (60,409 patients in total) and prostate cancer patients (84,534 patients), as these are among the most frequently diagnosed types of cancer. In 2012, 61 percent of all cancer patients who died of cardiovascular diseases were diagnosed with breast, prostate or bladder cancer.

The proportion of cancer survivors who died of cardiovascular diseases was highest among patients with cancer in the bladder (19 percent of patients), in the larynx (17 percent), in the prostate (17 percent), in the uterus ( 16 percent), in the intestine (14 percent) and in the chest (12 percent).

Patients who die of cancer more often than cardiovascular diseases are those with the most aggressive and hardest to treat cancers, such as lung, liver, brain, stomach, gallbladder, pancreas, esophagus, ovarian and multiples Myeloma.

Develop awareness of healthy lifestyle behavior

“These results show that a large proportion of certain cancer patients die from cardiovascular diseases such as heart disease, stroke, aneurysm, high blood pressure and damage to blood vessels. We also found that survivors of any type of cancer diagnosed before the age of 55 were more than ten times more likely to die of cardiovascular disease than the general population, ”said Dr. Sturgeon.

“Cancer survivors with breast, larynx, skin, Hodgkin's lymphoma, thyroid, testicular, prostate, uterine, cancer of the uterus, bladder, vulva and penile cancer die from cardiovascular diseases with about the same probability as theirs original cancer. The risk of dying from cardiovascular diseases is many times that of the general population in the first year after diagnosis, ”says the scientist.

"Increasing awareness of this risk can encourage cancer survivors to develop healthy lifestyle behaviors that not only reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease but also the risk of cancer recurrence," said Dr. Sturgeon.

Investigate cancer patients for cardiovascular diseases

“Doctors need to be aware that most cardiovascular deaths are diagnosed in patients with breast, prostate, or bladder cancer,” said Dr. Zaorsky. The radio-oncologist advocated that cancer survivors be examined for cardiovascular diseases.

"As the number of cancer survivors increases, the rate of cardiovascular deaths will continue to increase."

He said the reason cancer patients were at higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease within the first year of diagnosis may be that after hospitalization, other illnesses and problems such as heart disease, pulmonary dysfunction, and kidney failure were also identified were. It could also be explained by the aggressive treatment after a cancer diagnosis.

Dr. Sturgeon concluded: "We hope these results will raise awareness among patients, primary care physicians, oncologists, and cardiologists about the risk of cardiovascular disease in cancer patients and the need for earlier, more offensive, and more coordinated cardiovascular care."

Weaknesses of the study

One of the study’s weaknesses is the fact that the types of treatments patients received were not known, including whether they received therapies that could be more toxic to the heart or not.

The SEER database contains no information on other diseases and risk factors (such as smoking, alcohol consumption, obesity). The role of socio-economic status in the risk of cardiovascular death after cancer diagnosis has not been investigated.

The study was conducted in the US population, so the risks may vary in different population groups. The authors believe that their results are best for Canada, Europe, and Australia, where cancer and cancer deaths are similar to those in the United States. (ad)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


  • European Society of Cardiology (ESC): Cancer patients are at higher risk of dying from heart disease and stroke, (accessed: November 25, 2019), European Society of Cardiology (ESC)
  • European Heart Journal: A population-based study of cardiovascular disease mortality risk in US cancer patients, (accessed: November 25, 2019), European Heart Journal

Video: Smoking Causes Cancer, Heart Disease, Emphysema (September 2022).


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