Common early sign of heart disease may also mean high cancer risk

Microvascular endothelial dysfunction is a common early sign of heart disease.

It involves damage to the walls of small arteries in the heart, which affects their ability to expand and limit the flow of oxygen-rich blood.

High blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, and diabetes are among the causes, and symptoms of dysfunction include chest pain. The condition is treatable but difficult to detect.

In a recent study led by Mayo Clinic, researchers found microvascular endothelial dysfunction is linked to a greater risk of cancer.

The study is published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology. One author is Amir Lerman, M.D., a Mayo Clinic cardiologist.

The team reviewed the cases of 488 patients who underwent microvascular endothelial function assessment at Mayo Clinic between 2006 and 2014.

They found that microvascular endothelial dysfunction may be a useful marker for predicting the risk of solid-tumor cancer, in addition to its known ability to predict more advanced heart disease.

Among the 221 patients identified as having dysfunction, 9.5% were diagnosed with solid-tumor cancer during the 12-year follow-up period. This compared with 3.7% of patients without the dysfunction.

The association between microvascular endothelial dysfunction and cancer was independent but more prominent among men and in patients with hypertension, significant coronary artery disease, smoking, and obesity.

The study demonstrated that noninvasive vascular function assessment may predict the future development of cancer

More studies are needed, but an assessment of vascular function potentially may predict individuals at risk.

The team says patients with microvascular endothelial dysfunction tend to have other health issues, as well, and that may have drawn more medical attention to these patients, resulting in higher levels of incidental detection of cancer.

Whether improvement in dysfunction translates into a reduced risk of heart disease and cancer remains to be determined.

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