NEW YORK: Smokers who received radiation treatment for breast cancer are at an increased risk for heart disease, researchers say.
In the first study to examine risk factors for heart disease in women who had chemotherapy at least 10 years earlier, researchers based in the Netherlands found that the risks for smokers who received radiotherapy were greater than the sum of individual risks.
Women who are diagnosed with breast cancer have four options of standard treatment such as surgery to remove the cancerous tissue; chemotherapy, which is the use of drugs that stop the growth of cancer cells; hormone therapy, which removes hormones that stimulate cancer growth and radiation therapy, which uses high- energy X-rays to kill cancer cells.
Previous studies have found more deaths from cardiovascular causes in women treated with radiation therapy between 1971 and 1988. Though radiation therapy practices have changed today, women who received the treatment back then are at greater risk for heart disease and death, according to the research, which is to be published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
“To our knowledge, our study is the first to examine the effects of combined exposure to radiotherapy and cardiac risk factors,” the researchers wrote in the study.
The most dangerous technique was radiation to the tissue just above the heart. Women getting that treatment had an increased risk of heart attacks and congestive heart failure, the researchers wrote. Patients who received chemotherapy in addition to radiation therapy also were at heightened risk of congestive heart failure, the researchers said.
In 1980, a new technique to conserve breast tissue was introduced. Before this technique, women who had radiation therapy for breast cancer has 1.5 times the heart disease risk of patients who didn’t have the treatment; after the introduction, the risk dropped below statistical significance.