Heart-healthy lifestyles may lower future cancer risk

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In a new study, researchers found that in addition to lowering the risk of heart disease, maintaining a heart-healthy lifestyle may pay off in lower risk for developing cancer.

They found that traditional risk factors for heart disease, including older age, male sex, and current or former smoking were all linked to increased risk of the development of cancer.

In addition, increased levels of natriuretic peptides—markers of stress on the heart—also predicted higher cancer risk.

The findings suggest an association between a heart-healthy lifestyle and a lower risk of cancer, and the opposite is true: that a less heart-healthy lifestyle is also associated with a higher risk of cancer.

The research was conducted by a team from Massachusetts General Hospital and elsewhere.

In the study, the team examined the link between heart disease and cancer among 20,305 participants. The participants were free of cancer at study entry.

They found that traditional heart risk factors such as age, sex, and smoking status were each associated with cancer.

In addition, each 5% increase in the estimated 10-year heart risk score was linked to a 16% increase in risk for cancer.

Participants who were in the highest third of natriuretic peptide levels had a 40% greater risk of developing cancer than those in the lowest third.

Participants with heart disease at the beginning and those who had a cardiovascular event such as a heart attack or stroke during the study were not at higher risk of subsequent cancer.

But those who most closely adhered to the AHA recommendations at study entry (manage blood pressure, control cholesterol, reduce blood sugar, get active, eat better, lose weight, stop smoking) had a lower risk of future cancers.

One author of the study is Emily S. Lau, M.D.

The study is published in JACC: CardioOncology.

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