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Radiation therapy that helps treat breast cancer may also increase women’s risk of heart disease later in life. The risk begins within a few years after exposure to radiation and continues for at least 20 years.
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – The radiation that might cure a breast cancer may also raise a woman’s risk of having a heart attack or heart disease later in life, according a new study that looked back at the cases of 2,168 women in Sweden and Denmark.
The risk “begins within a few years after exposure, and continues for at least 20 years,” the researchers report in the New England Journal of Medicine. And that risk rises, they found, in proportion to the dose of radiation the heart receives.
The results are expected to be controversial because breast cancer is so common – there are about 3 million survivors of breast cancer in the U.S. – and because there is disagreement over the significance of the findings going forward since ne…
These findings are meant to comfort women since the risk of a heart attack is so low. Doctors now have the capability to estimate the risk and know that in most cases it will be very small. Radiation therapy is still a life-saving procedure.