Although acute bleomycin pulmonary toxic effects may occur, they are rarely fatal at total cumulative doses of less than 400 units. Because life-threatening pulmonary toxic effects can occur, the drug should be discontinued if early signs of pulmonary toxic effects develop. Although decreases in pulmonary function are frequent, they are rarely symptomatic and are reversible after the completion of chemotherapy. Survivors of testis cancer who were treated with chemotherapy have been reported to be at increased risk of death from respiratory diseases, but it is unknown whether this finding is related to bleomycin exposure.
Radiation therapy, often used in the management of pure seminomatous germ cell cancers, has been linked to the development of secondary cancers, especially solid tumors in the radiation portal, usually after a latency period of a decade or more.[45,46] These include melanoma and cancers of the stomach, bladder, colon, rectum, pancreas, lung, pleura, prostate, kidney, connective tissue, and thyroid. Chemotherapy has also been associated with an elevated risk of secondary cancers.
Cardiovascular Disease in Testicular Cancer Survivors
More recently, men with testis cancer who have been treated with radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy have been reported to be at increased risk of cardiovascular events.[47,48,49] Other studies have reported that chemotherapy for testis cancer is associated with an increased risk of developing metabolic syndrome and hypogonadism.[50,51] Moreover, an international population-based study reported that men treated with either radiation or chemotherapy were at increased risk of death from circulatory diseases.
In a retrospective series of 992 patients treated for testicular cancer at the Royal Marsden Hospital between 1982 and 1992, cardiac events were increased approximately 2.5-fold in patients treated with radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy compared with those who underwent surveillance after a median of 10.2 years. The actuarial risks of cardiac events were 7.2% for patients who received radiation therapy (92% of whom did not receive mediastinal radiation therapy), 3.4% for patients who received chemotherapy (primarily platinum-based), 4.1% for patients who received combined therapy, and 1.4% for patients who underwent surveillance management after 10 years of follow-up.
A population-based retrospective study of 2,339 testicular cancer survivors in the Netherlands, treated between 1965 and 1995 and followed for a median of 18.4 years, found that the overall incidence of coronary heart disease (i.e., myocardial infarction and/or angina pectoris) was increased 1.17 times (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.04-1.31) compared with the general population. Patients who received radiation therapy to the mediastinum had a 2.5-fold (95% CI, 1.8-3.4) increased risk of coronary heart disease, and those who also received chemotherapy had an almost 3-fold (95% CI, 1.7-4.8) increased risk. Patients who were treated with infradiaphragmatic radiation therapy alone had no significantly increased risk of coronary heart disease. In multivariate Cox regression analyses, the older chemotherapy regimen of cisplatin, vinblastine, and bleomycin (PVB), used until the mid-1980s, was associated with a significant 1.9-fold (95% CI, 1.2-2.9) increased risk of cardiovascular disease (i.e., myocardial infarction, angina pectoris, and heart failure combined). The newer regimen of bleomycin, etoposide, and cisplatin (BEP) was associated with a borderline significant 1.5-fold (95% CI, 1.0-2.2) increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Similarly, an international pooled analysis of population-based databases reported that the risk of death from circulatory disease was increased in men treated with chemotherapy (standardized mortality ratio 1.58) or radiation therapy (SMR = 1.70).[Level of evidence: 3iiiDii]