Few young cancer survivors face higher risk of early heart failure: Study

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Washington: Imagine overcoming cancer only to discover that the medication that saved your life comes with a brand-new health risk: heart failure.

Anthracyclines, a particular class of chemotherapy that breaks the DNA in cancer cells, have been reported to increase the risk of heart failure among young adult cancer survivors (between the ages of 18 and 39 at diagnosis) by 2.6 times.

The first study to estimate the risk of heart failure among young adult cancer survivors treated with anthracyclines included 12,879 young adult cancer survivors.

The incidence of heart failure was highest for cancer survivors of leukaemia. Additionally, survivors of kidney, lymphoma, bone and breast cancer also had a higher incidence of heart failure compared with study participants diagnosed with other cancer types. These types of cancer are more likely to be treated with anthracyclines.

"Thankfully, people are increasingly surviving early-onset cancer, but once they do, they're at risk of long-term side effects, like heart failure and infertility," said corresponding study author Elizabeth Hibler, assistant professor of epidemiology and prevention at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. "I'm interested in not only helping people survive their cancer but once they do, helping them improve their health and longevity as cancer survivors."

The study was published May 16 in the journal JACC: cardio-oncology.

The mean age of heart failure diagnosis was 32 years old, which not only indicates an increased risk but also early onset of heart failure, said senior study author Dr. Sadiya Khan.

"We often think about heart failure as a disease people get when they are old, but this work highlights that this is also a short-term risk for patients who survive cancer," said Khan, assistant professor of cardiology and epidemiology at Feinberg and a Northwestern Medicine physician. "It raises awareness for patients and clinicians to monitor symptoms and consider strategies for prevention."

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