Hodgkin's Disease Treatment Raises Lifelong Heart Risk

Survivors had more than double the rate of heart attack, study found

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WEDNESDAY, Feb. 7, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- Survivors of Hodgkin's disease are at increased risk for fatal heart attack for at least 25 years after treatment, a new study suggests.

The study's British researchers say Hodgkin's treatments -- not the illness itself -- is probably to blame for the excess in cardiovascular risk.

The study is published in the Feb. 7 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

"The effects of treatment for Hodgkin lymphoma appear to be lifelong, and cancer survivors should be monitored for late cardiac abnormalities throughout their lives," John D. Boice Jr., of the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center in Nashville, Tenn., wrote in an accompanying editorial.

In the study, a team from the Institute of Cancer Research in the United Kingdom analyzed data on 7,033 patients treated for Hodgkin's disease in Britain between 1967 and 2000.

Among these patients, 166 died from heart attacks, a number that is two-and-a-half times more than what would be expected in a similar-sized group of people in the general population.

The increased risk of fatal heart attack linked to Hodgkin's disease treatments was three times higher in male patients than in female patients, the study authors added.

In terms of treatments, those linked to the highest risk of fatal heart attack were radiation treatment above the diaphragm (which can include the heart) and a class of chemotherapy drugs called anthracyclines.

Among Hodgkin's patients who did not receive radiation therapy above the diaphragm or anthracyclines, the drug vincristine was associated with an increased risk of fatal heart attack, the study found.

Hodgkin's disease is a type of lymphoma that causes enlargement of lymph nodes, spleen and other immune tissue.

"The goal of keeping these patients alive has been achieved; the next challenge is to continue to reduce the toxicity of curative treatments and to make long-term survival as disease-free as possible, breaking as few hearts as possible along the way," Boice wrote.

More information

The American Cancer Society has more about Hodgkin's disease.

SOURCE: Journal of the National Cancer Institute, news release, Feb. 6, 2007

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