A new study published in Menopause, a journal through the North American Menopause Society (NAMS), has found that postmenopausal women with breast cancer are at greater risk for developing heart disease.
 
The study included 96 postmenopausal patients with a history of breast cancer and compared them with 192 postmenopausal women. Groups were matched by age, time since menopause, and body mass index. The purpose of the study was to compare and evaluate risk factors for cardiovascular disease in postmenopausal women with a history of breast cancer to women without a history of breast cancer.
 
The investigators found that postmenopausal women with a history of breast cancer showed a stronger association with metabolic syndrome, diabetes, atherosclerosis, hypertriglyceridemia, and abdominal obesity, which are major risk factors for cardiovascular disease. They also found that the risk of cardiovascular mortality increased to match mortality rates from cancer.
 
Cardiovascular disease is the main cause of death in postmenopausal women, and women treated for breast cancer are at a greater risk of developing heart disease than those who do not have a history of the disease. According to the press release, cardiovascular events may occur more than 5 years after radiation exposure, which may persist for up to 30 years.
 
"Heart disease appears more commonly in women treated for breast cancer because of the toxicities of chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and use of aromatase inhibitors, which lower estrogen. Heart-healthy lifestyle modifications will decrease both the risk of recurrent breast cancer and the risk of developing heart disease," said JoAnn Pinkerton, MD, executive director of NAMS. "Women should schedule a cardiology consultation when breast cancer is diagnosed and continue with ongoing follow-up after cancer treatments are completed."