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Late Effects of Treatment for Childhood Cancer (PDQ®): Treatment - Health Professional Information [NCI] - Late Effects of the Cardiovascular System


Other malignancies

Brain tumor: A study of self-reported late effects among 1,607 survivors of childhood brain tumors [59] showed that 18% of survivors reported a heart or circulatory late effect. Risk was highest among those treated with surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy compared with surgery and radiation therapy alone, suggesting a potential additive vascular injury from chemotherapy. Children who receive spinal radiation for treatment of central nervous system tumors have been demonstrated to show low maximal cardiac index on exercise testing and pathologic Q-waves in inferior leads on ECG testing, and higher posterior-wall stress.[60]

Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and acute myeloid leukemia (AML): In a study of ALL survivors reporting a chronic medical condition in the CCSS cohort, the risk of a cardiac condition was nearly sevenfold higher compared with the siblings. No significant association was identified based on radiation exposure. A similar analysis among AML survivors in the cohort found the 20-year cumulative incidence of cardiac disease to be 4.7%. It is noteworthy that adult survivors of childhood ALL have an increased prevalence of obesity and insulin resistance and may be at risk for developing diabetes, dyslipidemia, and metabolic syndrome, all known to be potent risk factors for premature cardiovascular disease.[61]

Wilms tumor: A long-term follow-up study of Wilms tumor survivors reported a cumulative risk of CHF of 4.4% at 20 years for those who received doxorubicin as part of their initial therapy and 17.4% at 20 years when doxorubicin was received as part of therapy for relapsed disease. Risk factors for CHF in this cohort included female gender, lung irradiation with doses 20 Gy or higher, left-sided abdominal irradiation, and doxorubicin dosage of 300 mg/m2 or more.[10]

Hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT): Cardiac complications after bone marrow transplantation may occur, with arrhythmia, pericarditis, and cardiomyopathy predominating, although many are either acute or subacute effects. High-dose cyclophosphamide clearly is a causative agent; total-body irradiation is a secondary contributing factor.[43,58,62] In a report from the Bone Marrow Transplant Survivors Study that compared 145 HCT survivors, 7,207 conventionally treated survivors, and 4,020 siblings from the CCSS cohort,[63] median time from HCT to study participation was 11.0 years (range, 2.3–25.9 years). The prevalence of cardiovascular conditions (grades 3–5) was 4.8% in HCT survivors, versus 3.2% in conventionally treated CCSS survivors, and it was 0.5% (for grades 3–4) in the sibling control CCSS cohort. The RR was 0.5 (95% CI, 0.1–2.5) for the conventionally treated survivors versus HCT survivors, and 12.7 (95% CI, 5.4–30.0) for the HCT survivors versus siblings.

Vascular Disease/Cerebrovascular Accident

A spectrum of vascular morbidities may occur after radiation therapy used to treat malignancies such as lymphomas, head and neck cancers, and brain tumors. Specifically, carotid artery and cerebrovascular injury occur after cervical and central nervous system irradiation. French investigators observed a significant association with radiation dose to the brain and long-term cerebrovascular mortality among 4,227 five-year childhood cancer survivors (median follow-up, 29 years). Survivors who received more than 50 Gy to the prepontine cistern had an HR of 17.8 (95% CI, 4.4–73) of death from cerebrovascular disease compared with those who had not received radiation therapy or who had received less than 0.1 Gy in the prepontine cistern region.[64] The RR for cerebrovascular accident (CVA [stroke]) in the CCSS cohort was almost tenfold higher compared with the sibling control group;[4] notably, risks were highest among the adult survivors of childhood ALL, brain tumors, and HL.[65,66] Leukemia survivors were six times more likely to suffer a CVA compared with their siblings, whereas brain tumor survivors were 29 times more likely to suffer a CVA. Of the brain tumor cohort, 69 of 1,411 patients who had a history of radiation therapy reported a CVA (4.9%), with a cumulative incidence of 6.9% (95% CI, 4.47–9.33) at 25 years. Survivors exposed to cranial radiation therapy greater than 30 Gy had an increased risk for CVA, with the highest risk among those treated with greater than 50 Gy.[66] Adult survivors of childhood HL who were treated with thoracic radiation therapy, including mediastinal and neck, had a 5.6-fold increased risk for CVA than their siblings (median dose 40 Gy).[65] In another study from the Netherlands of 2,201 5-year survivors of HL (of whom 547 were younger than 21 years), and with median follow-up of 17.5 years, 96 patients developed cerebrovascular disease (55 CVA, 31 transient ischemic attacks [TIA], and 10 both CVA and TIA), with a median age at diagnosis of 52 years.[67] Most ischemic events were from large-artery atherosclerosis (36%) or cardioembolism (24%). The standardized incidence ratio (SIR) for CVA was 2.2, and for TIA it was 3.1. The cumulative incidence of ischemic CVA or TIA 30 years after HL treatment was 7%. For patients younger than 21 years, the SIR for CVA was 3.8, and for TIA it was 7.6. Radiation to the neck and mediastinum was an independent risk factor for ischemic cerebrovascular disease (HR = 2.5; 95% CI, 1.1–5.6) versus without radiation therapy. Treatment with chemotherapy was not associated with increased risk. It is noteworthy that hypertension, diabetes mellitus, and hypercholesterolemia were associated with the occurrence of ischemic cerebrovascular disease, whereas smoking and overweight were not. [67]


WebMD Public Information from the National Cancer Institute

Last Updated: February 25, 2014
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