In a significant revelation, a study conducted by Northwestern Medicine has found that young adults, between the ages of 18 and 39, who survive cancer face an increased risk of heart failure.
This health risk is especially associated with treatment involving anthracyclines, a type of chemotherapy known for damaging the DNA in cancer cells.
The large-scale study, involving 12,879 young adult cancer survivors, is the first to quantify the heart failure risk among young adult cancer survivors treated with anthracyclines. The risk was found to be 2.6 times higher than normal.
Certain Types of Cancer Pose Higher Risk
The study found the incidence of heart failure to be highest among survivors of leukemia.
Other types of cancer, including kidney, lymphoma, bone, and breast cancer, were also associated with a higher incidence of heart failure compared to survivors of other types of cancer.
These types of cancer are often treated with anthracyclines.
Elizabeth Hibler, the corresponding study author and an assistant professor of epidemiology and prevention at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, stated that her interest lies in improving the health and longevity of cancer survivors, once they have overcome the disease itself.
Heart Failure in Young Adults: A Cause for Concern
The study revealed the mean age of heart failure diagnosis among the participants to be 32 years old. This indicates not only an increased risk, but also early onset of heart failure.
Dr. Sadiya Khan, senior study author, noted that while heart failure is often associated with older age, this study brings attention to its occurrence as a short-term risk for young cancer survivors.
This should raise awareness among patients and clinicians to monitor symptoms and consider preventive strategies.
Anthracycline Chemotherapy: A Double-Edged Sword
Anthracycline chemotherapy’s link to heart failure risk has been previously established in childhood and older adult cancer survivors. This study is the first to estimate this risk among the young adult population.
Despite its efficacy in treating cancer, the cardiotoxic side effects of anthracycline chemotherapy are prompting physicians to seek alternative treatments.
The researchers are also examining other cancer medications to understand their impact on the heart, aiming to improve early detection as there are early treatments available for heart failure if signs are detected early.
The study underscores the intersection between cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Future research is needed to determine whether newer types of cancer treatment can also impact the risk of heart failure, particularly in young individuals.
Further studies are also required to understand how shared risk factors can influence both cancer and heart disease risk.
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The study was published in JACC: CardioOncology.
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