Child Cancer Treatment May Up Heart Disease Risk
Study finds many survivors have no symptoms, but still have heart problems
By Alan Mozes
MONDAY, Jan. 4, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- Children who survive cancer may face a higher risk of heart disease as adults, new research suggests.
The lingering effects of the treatments that saved their lives as children may trigger the development of heart abnormalities that might not cause apparent symptoms, the researchers explained.
The investigators found that heart disease appears to affect between 3 percent and 24 percent of pediatric cancer survivors by the time they reach their 30s. Those figures rose to between 10 and 37 percent among patients 40 and older, the study found.
However, while the study revealed a link between childhood cancer treatment and later heart disease, it didn't prove cause-and-effect.
"The prevalence of these cardiac findings might be expected in an older adult population, but not necessarily in this young a population," said study lead author Dr. Daniel Mulrooney.
"Survivors of childhood cancer exposed to cardio-toxic cancer therapies are at risk for premature cardiovascular disease, much of which may present asymptomatically (without symptoms), and require long-term surveillance," he said.
Mulrooney, who's with the department of oncology in the division of cancer survivorship at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., and his colleagues released their findings online Jan. 4 in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
As cancer therapies have improved, the chances of surviving childhood malignancies have increased markedly. In the United States, four in five young patients now survive at least five years following their initial diagnosis. Adult survivors of childhood cancer number nearly 390,000, according to the researchers. That figure is projected to grow to more than half a million by 2020, the study authors said.
The problem? In the past, a return of cancer was the biggest concern among pediatric patients. But today, experts believe that adult survivors may have to contend with cancer treatment side effects.
To explore the subject, the study authors focused on almost 1,900 men and women initially treated for childhood cancer at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.
Participants ranged from 18 to 60 years old. All had been treated with various types of chemotherapy and/or radiation. All had survived a minimum of 10 years, according to the study.