Young men who survive testicular cancer may need to worry about more than a return of their disease: A new study suggests they also face greater heart risks down the road.
"The overarching goal of our study is to implement early interventions in order to reduce the risk of heart disease," said researcher Dr. Mohammad Abu Zaid. An assistant professor of medicine at Indiana University's Cancer Center, he made his remarks in a news release from the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN).
Dr. Timothy Gilligan chairs the NCCN Guidelines Panel on Testicular Cancer. He explained that "for testicular cancer survivors, as with most cancer survivors, the medical concerns don't end with remission."
"Testicular cancer survivors whose treatment included chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or both, have an increased risk of dying from cardiovascular disease," Gilligan said. "This study provides valuable information as we try to understand why."
In the study, Abu Zaid and his colleagues analyzed 486 testicular cancer survivors who were treated with platinum-based chemotherapy. The investigators found that these patients had higher-than-normal rates of heart disease risk factors.
The researchers reported that, compared to men who hadn't had testicular cancer, the survivors were more likely to have: high blood pressure (about 43 percent versus 31 percent); higher amounts of "bad" cholesterol (nearly 18 percent versus 9 percent); higher overall cholesterol levels (26 percent versus 11 percent). They were also more likely to be overweight (75 percent versus 69 percent).
These survivors were also less likely to have lower levels of "good" cholesterol (about 24 percent versus 35 percent), and less likely to have abdominal obesity (28 percent versus 40 percent).
"We found that one in 10 testicular cancer survivors under age 30 had metabolic syndrome, and that increased to more than a third of patients over age 50," Abu Zaid said.
Metabolic syndrome is defined as three or more of the following conditions: high blood pressure, abdominal obesity, elevated triglyceride (a type of blood fat) levels, decreased levels of good cholesterol and diabetes.
"At this time, there are no criteria for determining what exactly causes metabolic syndrome in cancer survivors. Developing those criteria requires long-term follow up of cancer survivors," Abu Zaid said.
"This will help us understand which risk factors are more likely to lead to heart disease for this particular population," he added.
The researchers said health care providers should screen and treat testicular cancer survivors for heart disease risk factors and urge them to adopt healthy lifestyle habits, such as regular exercise and not smoking.
The study was published online recently in the Journal of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network.
Gilligan is also vice chair for education at Case Comprehensive Cancer Center/University Hospitals Seidman Cancer Center and the Cleveland Clinic's Taussig Cancer Institute.
The American Cancer Society has more on testicular cancer.
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