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Characterizing risk of death from cardiovascular disease in cancer patients

A new study reports that the risk of death due to cardiovascular disease in cancer patients is increased.

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) and cancer are the leading causes of death worldwide. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), CVD accounted for around 18 million deaths in 2016, while cancer was responsible for about 9.6 million deaths in 2018. Cardiovascular diseases are a group of disorders that affect the heart and blood vessels and include conditions such as coronary heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, and high blood pressure. Several studies suggest cancer survivors have an increased risk of developing CVDs due to shared lifestyles or side effects from cancer treatments.

In a recent study, published in the European Heart Journal, researchers conducted a comprehensive study that aimed to characterize the risk of deaths from CVD in cancer survivors at multiple cancer sites. In the study, over 3.2 million patients, diagnosed with cancer between 1973 and 2012, were compared with the general population in the U.S. Using information from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) database, researchers examined the deaths from CVD of patients with 28 different types of cancer and adjusted the analyses by factors such as age, sex, and race that could have an effect on the results. The analysis involved characterizing the risk of deaths due to CVD in each continuous year by cancer type as well as with respect to age at the time of diagnosis and follow up time after diagnosis.

The study reports that around 38 percent of the participants died from cancer and 11 percent died from CVD. Among the patients who died from CVD, about 76 percent of the deaths were due to heart disease. The risk of death from CVD was found to be highest among patients under 35 years. In the study, the majority of the deaths from CVD were found to have occurred in patients with breast, bladder, and prostate cancers. Patients with endometrial cancer had an elevated risk of death from CVD in their first year in comparison to other cancer types and the findings support a need for early involvement of cardiologists. According to the researchers, the risk of death from CVD among cancer patients in their first year of diagnosis is several times higher than that of the general population.

In an editorial accompanying the journal paper, Dr. Herrmann suggests that the study confirmed the risk of death from CVD for cancer patients to be about two to six times higher in comparison to the general population. According to Herrmann, cancer patients will face an increased risk of death from CVD throughout their life and thus the author suggests a more proactive approach in treating CVD before starting cancer therapy.

The study is the largest and most comprehensive examination of the deaths from cardiovascular diseases among patients with 28 types of cancer and using a database with over 40 years of data. Previous studies were smaller, examining the risk of death from CVD in a few cancer types without long follow-up times. Based on the study findings, the researchers highlight the need for timely, more aggressive and better-coordinated treatment of cardiovascular diseases between the primary physicians, oncologists, and cardiologists. According to the study author, Dr. Sturgeon, the increasing awareness of the risk of CVD death may encourage cancer patients to adopt healthier lifestyles that will decrease the risk of CVD and cancer recurrence.


Written by Ranjani Sabarinathan, MSc



Sturgeon KM, Deng L, Bluethmann SM, et al. (2019). A population-based study of cardiovascular disease mortality risk in US cancer patients. European Heart Journal. doi: 10.1093/eurheartj/ehz766

Herrmann J. (2019). From trends to transformation: where cardio-oncology is to make a difference. European Heart Journal. doi: 10.1093/eurheartj/ehz781

Cancer patients are at higher risk of dying from heart disease and stroke. (2019, November 24). Retrieved from

Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs)


Image by Bruno Glätsch from Pixabay



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