Heart failure could raise risk of developing cancer for thousands of patients, study suggests 


Heart failure could raise risk of developing cancer for thousands of patients, study suggests

  • New study found heart failure patients may be more at risk of developing cancer 
  • Around 25% patients went on to get cancer, compared to 16% without condition
  • Evidence suggests failing heart may produce proteins which cause inflammation

Heart failure may increase the risk of developing cancer, a study has found.

Up to 920,000 people in the UK are thought to be living with the condition, which happens when the heart is not pumping blood around the body as well as it should – often following damage to the organ’s muscles from a heart attack.

Now researchers who have been tracking people with heart failure over ten years have found they are more likely to be diagnosed with cancer.

The study of more than 200,000 people found around a quarter of heart failure patients went on to get cancer, compared to just 16 per cent of those without the heart condition.

New study has found heart failure patients may be more at risk of developing cancer as around 25% of patients went on to get cancer, compared to just 16% without the condition (file image)

Women with heart failure were 85 per cent more likely to develop cancer, while men had a 69 per cent increased risk. Evidence suggests a failing heart may produce proteins which cause inflammation, and this could make tumours more likely to form in the body.

Dr Mark Luedde, co-author of the study from Christian-Albrechts University of Kiel in Germany, said: ‘It is common practice for cancer patients who have received heart-damaging drugs to be monitored for heart failure.

‘Conversely, evidence is accumulating to indicate that heart failure patients could benefit from intensive monitoring for cancer development – for example through screening.’

The research presented at Heart Failure 2021, an online conference of the European Society of Cardiology, and published in the journal ESC Heart Failure, studied people with an average age of 72. A total of 100,124 patients with heart failure and 100,124 individuals without the condition were monitored for ten years.

Among the two groups, which contained people of a similar age and with similar levels of obesity, 25.7 per cent of those suffering from heart failure went on to develop cancer. That compared to just 16.2 per cent of the group who did not have heart failure.

The average increased risk of getting cancer among people with heart failure was 76 per cent, with the greatest additional risk seen for throat, mouth and lip forms of the disease.

Evidence suggests a failing heart may produce proteins which cause inflammation, and this could make tumours more likely to form in the body (file image)

Evidence suggests a failing heart may produce proteins which cause inflammation, and this could make tumours more likely to form in the body (file image)

The chances of getting these tumours was found to be more than twice as high in people with heart failure, while their risk was 83 per cent higher for skin cancer and 67 per cent higher for breast cancer. The study used information from the Disease Analyser database, which covers 1,274 general practices in Germany.

In women, 28.6 per cent of those suffering from heart failure developed cancer, compared to just 18.8 per cent of those free from the condition.

In men, the rate was 23.2 per cent among those with heart failure, compared to 13.8 per cent among those who did not have it.

However, while the authors took into account participants’ obesity and diabetes, they did not take into account behaviours like smoking, alcohol consumption and exercise levels, which may make adults more likely to suffer from both heart failure and cancer.

Dr Luedde said: ‘This was an observational study and the results do not prove that heart failure causes cancer.

‘However the findings do suggest that heart failure patients may benefit from cancer prevention measures.’ 

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