Congenital Heart Disease Directly Linked to Cancer in Young Patients

The latest cardiology research from Sweden suggests that chances for developing cancer remain significantly escalated for young patients with congenital heart disease.
Dana  Miller

Many contemporary discussions on our collective human fight against cancer center on the significance of genetics as related to the onset of this hydra-headed disease.

Swedish researchers have recently established a clear connection between congenital heart disease (CHD) and the risk of cancer development in a controlled study of thousands of children and young adults.


Utilizing data from the national Swedish Patient and Cause of Death Registers to pair subjects with CHD from 1970-1993 with subjects of the same birth year, gender and county without CHD revealed a wealth of comorbidity for those with the genetic heart defect and cancers of varying kinds.

Arguably the most disconcerting piece of evidence yielded in this study suggests that the risk of cancer for the most current birth cohort with CHD remains significantly higher than those observed in older cohorts.

Some of this discrepancy is attributed to the early mortality rates of older CHD cohorts due to noteworthy lacks in medical advancement associated with those times. Many CHD patients in the older cohorts simply did not survive CHD long enough to get cancer.

This study represents the first to probe the long-range occurrence of cancer from birth to 41 years of age in participants with any kind of CHD where surgery was a non-factor. Amid the persistent discussion in the world community of cardiologists about whether the prolonged exposure to ionizing radiation associated with most heart surgeries increases the likelihood of cancer in surgery patients, these recent findings support the notion that cardiac catheterization can be a heavy, but not independent, influence.

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Congenital Heart Disease Directly Linked to Cancer in Young Patients
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Patients who had received a full heart transplant seemed to fare the worst in these new statistics, a fact which encourages the study's conclusion that multifactorial stress and clinical exposure components underly much of the atypically high cancer prevalence in CHD patients. Alongside the obvious stresses of the consistent medical imposition posed by a life with CHD, this study further explicates the impact of the natural limitations associated with the disease as relates to cancer susceptibility.

Commonly offered cancer-preventative advice, such as eating a healthy diet and increasing exercise, given to otherwise healthy individuals can be nearly impossible to apply to the realities of the reduced oxygen intake, lower isotonic muscle tone and greater exercise-intolerance experienced by the typical CHD patient.

With their relative vulnerability to cancer representing twice that of a non-CHD patient, the findings surrounding these Swedish children and young adults suggest that a much more in-depth look at the connections between palliative treatments and procedures concerning all groups is both requisite and urgent. 

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