SABCS 2016: Heart Disease After Breast Cancer Treatment

Karuna-Jaggar-2015 smallBy Karuna Jaggar, Executive Director

A quarter of all women in the United States die from heart disease. While cardiac disease is a public health issue in its own right, it is also linked to breast cancer because of the cardiotoxicity of common breast cancer treatments. Radiation (particularly to the left side), chemotherapy (such as anthracycline and adriamycin), and aromatase inhibitors (AIs) can all negatively impact heart health. Doctors worry that as more women survive breast cancer, women treated for early stage breast cancer are at greater risk of dying from cardiovascular disease than breast cancer.

We know that AIs reduce breast cancer deaths for women with operable estrogen receptor positive (ER+) breast cancer, which accounts for the majority of all breast cancers. But given the toxicity and concern about the long term harms from treatment for women surviving breast cancer, researchers are interested in seeing if some women can safely avoid using AIs after surgery.

Dr. Anne Blaes from Masonic University looked at endothelial function as a predictor of cardiovascular disease [S5-07]. Researchers compared 25 healthy postmenopausal women (the control group) with 36 postmenopausal women who had been treated with an aromatase inhibitor for locally advanced breast cancer between 2014-2015. They found that women who had been treated with AIs had reduced endothelial function, which predicts cardiovascular disease (acute coronary syndrome, chest pain, myocardial infarction, cardiac death).

This finding provides a caution about long-term cardiotoxicity of treatment to counterbalance the growing interest in extending hormone therapy. The study also raises questions about the use of AIs for “chemoprevention” in healthy women to reduce their risk of breast cancer. This is especially true for young women who may live decades after breast cancer. After all, it’s no good to prevent death from breast cancer at the cost of causing death from cardiovascular disease.


This entry was posted in BCA News.

2 Responses to SABCS 2016: Heart Disease After Breast Cancer Treatment

  1. Laura says:

    Great information. The one factor I’d be interested in is the lifestyle habits of each group. Weight, exercise and dietary habits, and sugar intake (inflammatory effect of cardio).
    When I had my periodic breast check up, the obese women were the majority of the patients, clueless about fat cell/estrogen connection. Granted we’re all at risk, and environmental and product risks are high still. Those sanitizer wipes are everywhere and are hormone disruptors.

    • Kristin A. Farry Ph. D. says:

      Please acquaint yourself with the recent findings concerning increased metabolic syndrome after chemotherapy. These women may not be “clueless”–I am certainly not, but maintaining my normal weight after chemo has been much harder than it was before. Survivors need extra help on weight management.

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