AYA, Childhood Cancer Survivors’ Future Risk of Heart Disease

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“About 4.5 percent of the childhood cancer survivors had cardiovascular diseases like heart failure and blood clots in the deep veins of the legs, and most cases occurred before age 40, almost eight years sooner than the people without cancer.”

It’s a conundrum for childhood cancer survivors. The aggressive chemotherapy that may have saved your life will, eventually, cause your death. Though I am not a survivor of a pedatric cancer, I was diagnosed with my cancer when I was 34. I fall into the AYA group… just barely.

I don’t believe that long-term and late-stage side effects are a function of when a person undergoes his/her therapy but how long a person lives with the unknown side effects of chemotherapy and/or radiation. I have lived in complete remission from my “incurable” blood cancer, multiple myeloma, since 1994. Several long-term side effects have progressed and several late stage side effects haven’t worsened.

Statistically speaking, I should be dead by now. If you add up all of the probabilites that I should develop a secondary cancer, relapse from my original cancer, or develop treatment related secondary cancers I should have developed another cancer years ago and died.

But I’m still here. Coincidence? I don’t think so. As an example, when I developed atrial fibrillaton in the fall of 2010, I did lots of homework on non-toxic therapies to help my heart and my heart remains in the state it was in why I firm discoverd my chronic a-fib.

The fact is there are dozens of evidence-based but non-toxic therapies cited to help childhood cancer survivors. Please scroll down the page and tell me a bit about yourself and your cancer.


David Emerson

  • Cancer Survivor
  • Cancer Coach
  • Director PeopleBeatingCancer

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Childhood cancer survivors may develop heart problems sooner

“Adult survivors of childhood cancer have a greater risk of heart disease and develop risk factors like high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol earlier in life compared to the general population, a German study suggests.

Researchers studied 951 adults, ages 23 to 48, who had been diagnosed with cancer when they were less than 15 years old. The study team looked at lab tests for risk factors for heart disease, and also for conditions like heart failure, stroke and heart attacks. Along with the cancer survivors, they studied more than 15,000 similar people who didn’t have malignancies as children.

Overall, the cancer survivors were 38 percent more likely to have high blood pressure and 26 percent more likely to have high cholesterol, the study found. Cancer survivors also developed high blood pressure an average of six years earlier than other people, and developed high cholesterol eight years sooner.

About 4.5 percent of the childhood cancer survivors had cardiovascular diseases like heart failure and blood clots in the deep veins of the legs, and most cases occurred before age 40, almost eight years sooner than the people without cancer.

“Adult survivors cannot change that they had exposure to cancer therapies that increased their risk of premature cardiovascular disease,” said Dr. John Groarke, author of an editorial accompanying the study and a researcher at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

“So they must be very vigilant not to add additional risk through smoking, obesity, sedentary lifestyle or uncontrolled hypertension,” Groarke said by email.

Cardiovascular disease is second only to malignancies as the most common cause of death and serious illness for cancer survivors.

Previous research has linked cancer chemotherapies known as anthracyclines to weakening of the heart muscle. Research has also tied some radiation therapy to cardiac rhythm disorders and structural damage in arteries and heart valves.

In the current study, participants had been diagnosed with cancer when they were 6 years old on average, and they were typically about 34 years old at the time of the follow-up lab tests to look for signs of heart disease.

Leukemia was the most common cancer diagnosis, followed by central nervous system tumors, lymphoma and kidney tumors.

Half of them underwent both chemotherapy and radiation, while 37 percent had chemo alone and 3 percent had only radiation.

Cancer survivors were no more likely than other people in the study to have diabetes or obesity, two risk factors for heart disease.

There were very few cases of heart attack and stroke, which may be because the cancer survivors were still relatively young, researchers note in the European Heart Journal.

The study wasn’t a controlled experiment designed to prove whether or how childhood cancer or its treatments might directly cause heart disease later in life.

Still, the findings add to a large and growing body of evidence that suggests childhood cancer survivors need to worry about their heart health at a much younger age than other people, said lead study author Dr. Joerg Faber of the University Children’s Hospital in Mainz, Germany.

Beyond eating right, exercising and avoiding cigarettes, childhood cancer survivors also need to focus on heart health as part of their routine medical care, Faber said by email.

In particular, they need to get screened. Most patients identified as having high blood pressure and high cholesterol by lab tests done for the study had no idea they were living with these conditions, Faber noted.

“Early systematic screening, particularly focusing on blood pressure and lipid profile measurements, might be suggested in all childhood cancer survivors,” Faber added. “This might help prevent long-term cardiovascular (complications).”

SOURCE: bit.ly/2oVLCvU European Heart Journal, online March 9, 2018

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