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Breast Cancer Radiation Has Become Safer

Fewer Heart Disease Deaths for Women Treated with Radiation
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Reassurance for Radiation? continued...

The researchers hope their study will address women's concerns about radiation.

"A substantial number of women, especially those who are older, don't get radiationwomen, especially those who are older, don't get radiation when they should -- for example, after a lumpectomy," says Giordano, in the news release.

"We really don't know why they don't get radiation, but we have to theorize that maybe it's due to concerns over toxicity," continues Giordano, who works at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

Improvement Since the 1970s

Giordano's study centers on women who received radiation during their breast cancer treatment in the 1970s and 1980s. The women were followed for 15 years after diagnosis to see who died of heart disease.

Data came from women with breast cancer diagnosed from 1973-1989.

All of the women received radiation as part of their breast cancer treatment. The researchers noted which women died of heart disease within 15 years of diagnosis and which breast was treated with radiation therapy. The women were split into three groups: those diagnosed from 1973-1979, 1980-1984, and 1985-1989.

Tracking Heart Disease Deaths After Radiation

From 1973-1979, the risk of dying from heart disease within 15 years of diagnosis was higher for woman treated for left-sided tumors (13%) verses those treated for right-sided breast cancers (10%).

Those numbers improved as new radiation techniques emerged.

From 1980-1984, there was no difference in heart disease deaths within 15 years, regardless of which breast had been radiated.

The results weren't affected by the stage of the women's breast cancer at diagnosis, researchers say.

For women diagnosed with breast cancer between 1985 and 1989, no difference in heart disease death was found.

However, women diagnosed in the late 1980s should continue to be watched in case heart disease claims more lives later, the study and editorial state. The women should be followed for at least another decade, Cuzick writes. The report appears in the March 16 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

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