Radiation for breast cancer may no longerraise the odds of fatal heart damage.Because radiation therapy has become moreexact, researchers indicated in the Journal ofthe National Cancer Institute (March 16,2005) that the heart risk has been significantlyreduced, perhaps eliminated.
The researchers analyzed the records ofwomen treated for breast cancer in 1973-1979, 1980-1984, and 1985-1989. Theynoted that long-term follow-up is requiredbecause the effects of radiation on theheart may not show signs for more than adecade. The study looked at 13,998women with left-breast cancer and 13,285women with right-breast cancer. The findingsshowed that among women treated inthe 1970s, the 15-year death rate found inwomen with left-breast cancer was 13.1%,compared with 10.2% in the right-breastcancer group.
In the early-1980s group, the death ratesdropped to 9.4% for left-breast cancer andto 8.1% for right-breast cancer. In the late-1980s group, 5.8% of women with left-breastcancer died of heart disease within15 years, compared with 5.2% with right-breastcancer.