Childhood Cancer Survivors Targets for Heart Disease

THURSDAY, Jan. 7 (HealthDay News) -- Childhood cancer survivors are at increased risk for diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure, all of which predispose them to heart disease, say U.S. researchers.

They analyzed data on almost 8,600 survivors and close to 3,000 of their siblings who took part in the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study.

"In data previously published from the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study, pediatric cancer survivors were found to be at almost 10-fold greater risk for cardiovascular disease than their non-survivor counterparts," Dr. Lillian R. Meacham, medical director of the Cancer Survivor Program and professor of pediatrics at Emory University, said in a news release.

"In this study, we identified whether the predisposing risk factors for cardiovascular disease -- obesity, hypertension, hyperlipidemia [high cholesterol] and diabetes -- were present at higher rates compared to siblings. If the risk factors could be recognized and treated early it is hoped some of the long-term cardiac side effects could be averted," she said.

Meacham and her colleagues found that childhood cancer survivors were nearly twice as likely as their siblings to take medication for high blood pressure, 70% more likely to have diabetes and 60% more likely to take cholesterol medication. The cancer survivors were not more likely than their siblings to be obese.

The study was published Jan. 7 in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

Meacham said radiation treatment may play a role in the development of cardiovascular disease risk factors. Total body radiation was associated with a 5.5-fold increased risk of cardiovascular risk factor clustering, while chest and abdomen radiation was associated with a 2.2-fold increased risk.

"Mechanistically, we are not yet sure why this is, but the association is definitely there," Meacham said.

-- Robert Preidt

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SOURCE: American Association for Cancer Research, news release, Jan. 7, 2010