Radiation Therapy May Not Harm Heart

Published Online: Wednesday, June 1, 2005

Radiation for breast cancer may no longer raise the odds of fatal heart damage. Because radiation therapy has become more exact, researchers indicated in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute (March 16, 2005) that the heart risk has been significantly reduced, perhaps eliminated.

The researchers analyzed the records of women treated for breast cancer in 1973-1979, 1980-1984, and 1985-1989. They noted that long-term follow-up is required because the effects of radiation on the heart may not show signs for more than a decade. The study looked at 13,998 women with left-breast cancer and 13,285 women with right-breast cancer. The findings showed that among women treated in the 1970s, the 15-year death rate found in women with left-breast cancer was 13.1%, compared with 10.2% in the right-breast cancer group.

In the early-1980s group, the death rates dropped to 9.4% for left-breast cancer and to 8.1% for right-breast cancer. In the late-1980s group, 5.8% of women with left-breast cancer died of heart disease within 15 years, compared with 5.2% with right-breast cancer.

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