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Pediatric cancer survivors at risk of dying from heart disease

By David Liu


Children who survive cancer are more likely to suffer from heart disease, a study published in BMJ.com has found.


The adverse effects associated with cancer treatments such as radiotherapy and chemotherapy are not publicized as often as the benefits of treatments are.


The study shows that because of adverse effects from cancer therapy, young adult survivors of childhood cancer are at risk of a variety of cardiovascular complications including heart failure, heart attacks, inflammation of the heart and heart valve abnormalities as late as 30 years after therapy.


The risk is significant even at lower exposures to anthracyclines, drugs used in chemotherapy and radiotherapy than previously thought, the researchers found.


Professor Daniel Mulrooney from the University of Minnesota, coauthor of the study, is calling on health providers to address the issue when they try to convince the patients of the benefits of the cancer treatments.


For the study, the researchers compared data from 14,358 five-year cancer survivors enrolled in the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study with 3,899 siblings of cancer survivors.


Cancers including leukemia, brain cancer, Hodgkin's lymphoma, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, kidney cancer, neuroblastoma, soft tissue sarcoma, or bone cancer were diagnosed from 1970 through 1986 in the subjects aged younger than 21.


Patients' health statuses were surveyed through questionnaires.


Dr. Mulrooney found "Young adults who survive childhood or adolescent cancer are clearly at risk for early cardiac morbidity and mortality not typically recognized within this age group."