Childhood Cancer Treatment Negatively Affects Survivors’ Hearts
Even though cancer usually manifests later on in life, it can also unfortunately afflict young children. For young children, cancer is the leading cause of disease-related deaths. The rate of survival was 83.1 percent between 2003 and 2009. Children diagnosed with cancer have to undergo a series of drugs and even surgeries. In a new study, researchers examined the effects of childhood cancer treatment and found that the treatment negatively affected the survivors' heart in the future.
For this study, the researchers examined the heart health of 219 children from the United States. The children, between the ages of nine and 18, had survived leukemia and other cancerous tumors and were cancer free for five years or longer. The participants were compared to their siblings that never had cancer. There were a total of 208 sibling children. Heart health was assessed by measuring artery stiffness, thickness and function.
The team found that cancer survivors were more likely than their siblings to have premature heart disease. The cancer survivors had a decline in arterial function. When it came to children that survived leukemia, they experienced a nine percent reduction in arterial health post-chemotherapy treatment.
"Researcher has shown childhood cancer survivors face heart and other health problems decades after treatment," said Donald R. Dengel, Ph.D., study lead author and a kinesiology professor at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. "But researchers had not-until now-looked at the heart health effects of childhood cancer treatment while survivors are still children."
The research team stated that the study was limited to white children. Since the study also looked into several different childhood cancer treatment protocols, the researchers could not conclude which chemotherapy agent contributed the most to heart health. Regardless of the limitations to the study, the researchers believe that children cancer survivors should be focused on reducing their heart disease risk.
"Given this increased risk, children who survive cancer should make lifestyle changes to lower their cardiovascular risk," Dengel stated according to Medical Xpress. "Healthcare providers who are managing chemotherapy-treated childhood cancer survivors need to monitor cardiovascular risk factors immediately following the completion of their patients' cancer therapy."
The study was presented at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2013.