When a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer, many times radiation therapy is performed to save her life, but a new European study finds radiation may increase the chance of developing heart disease for some women.
Dr. Juan Carlos Plana did not take part in the study but is a cardio oncologist at Cleveland Clinic.
"What we can say is that radiotherapy is going to accelerate the process of arthrosclerosis," said Dr. Plana.
Oxford university researchers looked at over 2000 european women who received radiation for breast cancer.
They found a link between higher doses, measured in "grays," and an increased likelihood of developing heart disease.
In fact, for each gray, there was a better than 7 percent increase in the rate of major coronary events.
"What happens is the radiation causes damage to the inner lining of the vessels. And as a result of that you will start the process of inflammation," said Dr. Plana.
Researchers say the increased risk may begin within a few years of exposure and could last at least 20 years.
Dr. Plana says there is a lot to gain by undergoing radiation therapy, but women need to understand the other risk factors that are involved.
"From the beginning there needs to be a coordination of care between the patient, the cardiologist, and the oncologist," said Dr. Plana.
Complete findings are in the "new england journal of medicine."
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