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News

Breast cancer survivors may enjoy lower risk of heart attacks

University Of Chicago : 27 June, 2002  (Technical Article)
University of Chicago researchers have some good news for survivors of breast cancer: They might be one-third less likely to have heart attacks than other women.
The researchers aren't exactly sure why, but they believe the drug tamoxifen, given to many breast cancer patients, might be a factor. They also suspect that women who have higher levels of natural estrogen, which places them at a higher risk for breast cancer, could benefit from the hormone when it comes to being heart healthy.

'We don't know for sure what the link is,' said Dr. Elizabeth Lamont, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Chicago and director of the study. 'But it's certainly biologically plausible that what caused the breast cancer could protect the heart, or what's treating the breast cancer could protect the heart.'

The study is in the July issue of Cancer, a journal of the American Cancer Society. It compared National Cancer Institute data on 5,980 women who had survived postmenopausal early-stage breast cancer with Medicare data on 23,165 women who had never had cancer.

The breast cancer survivors were 34 percent less likely to be hospitalized for heart attacks than the women who did not have breast cancer.

'We found a silver lining around the cloud of a breast cancer diagnosis,' Lamont said. 'Women with breast cancer have received plenty of bad news. Now we can give survivors some good news.'

However, Northwestern University breast cancer specialist and American Cancer Society vice president Dr. Stephen Sener cautioned that the study does not prove a link between breast cancer and fewer heart attacks.

The researchers acknowledge in their study that more work needs to be done. While tamoxifen and natural estrogen have long been thought to protect women from heart attacks, little research has been performed in those areas.
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