Cancer Succeeds After Heart Fails

Heart failure survivors appear to be at greater risk for cancer

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Thanks to advances in medicine, heart failure patients are living longer than ever before. Scientists are now seeing that these survivors need to be especially careful to keep an eye on their overall health.

The results of a new study showed that heart failure patients were at greater risk of developing cancer than people who had not had this form of heart disease.

These findings highlight why it’s important for people who have had heart failure to stay up to date on all recommended cancer screenings.

"Keep up with recommended cancer screenings."

This study was conducted by Veronique Roger, MD, director of the Mayo Clinic Center for the Science of Health Care Delivery, and colleagues.

These researchers studied the medical records of patients treated for heart failure in Olmsted County, Minnesota.

Study members included 596 heart failure patients and 596 individuals who had not had heart failure. They were followed from 1979 to 2002. None of these patients had cancer at the start of the study. The average age of participants was 75.5 years, and 54 percent were women.

Among this group, 244 cancers were diagnosed, with digestive and male reproductive cancers being among the most common.

The researchers looked at the outcomes of patients from two 11–year intervals and discovered the following:

  • Individuals diagnosed with heart failure between 1979 and 1990 had a 48 percent increased risk of developing cancer compared to people without heart failure.
  • Heart failure patients diagnosed between 1991 and 2002 had an 86 percent higher cancer risk than people who didn't have heart failure.
  • 53 percent of heart failure patients diagnosed with cancer were alive after five years, while 77 percent of non-heart failure cancer patients were alive at five years.

The researchers were not sure why these associations existed. Factors that may explain these findings include side effects of cardiovascular treatments, heart failure-related stress and the physiological impact of heart failure on the body, such as inflammation.

"Heart failure patients are at increased risk of cancer, which appears to have increased over time. Cancer increases mortality in heart failure underscoring the importance of non-cardiac morbidity and of cancer surveillance in the management of heart failure patients,” the authors concluded.

This study was published June 26 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Funding for this research was provided by National Institutes of Health and the National Institute on Aging.

No conflicts of interest were disclosed.

Review Date: 
June 27, 2013
Last Updated:
September 6, 2013