Connection between postmenopausal breast cancer and heart disease

African American woman with her eyes closed

Current treatments for breast cancer result in an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, as reported in the journal MenopauseA group of postmenopausal women who survived breast cancer were compared to a matched group without breast cancer. The Brazilian research team found that previous breast cancer was associated with metabolic syndrome, diabetes, atherosclerosis, high triglycerides, and abdominal obesity. The difference between groups was highly significant, and all of these conditions are major risk factors for cardiovascular disease.  In fact, the risk of cardiovascular mortality was similar to the death rate from the cancer.

“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,” concluded Dr. JoAnn Pinkerton, the executive director of the North American Menopause Society in a press release about the study.

With cardiovascular disease the number one cause of death in postmenopausal women, the new findings add support for the need for new breast cancer treatment. The Parsemus Foundation has long been concerned about the use of aromatase inhibitors for breast cancer, and funded a preclinical study to evaluate the impact of an alternative breast cancer treatment using bioidentical hormones (see Questioning Aromatase Inhibitors).

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