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Mayo Clinic researchers find link between cancer, heart attacks

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Dr. Joerg Herrmann, cardiologist at Mayo Clinic

New research from Mayo Clinic shows cancer patients are experiencing additional health-related issues, including the most severe type of heart attack and a three times higher risk of non cardiac death.

Mayo identified this "emerging subgroup" in a new article published this week in Mayo Clinic Proceedings. This concept of care has been dubbed "cardio-oncology."

The paper was written by a team of nine researchers, led by Dr. Joerg Herrmann, the senior author. It examined 2,346 patients covering a 10-year span before determining that one in 10 who experienced an ST-elevation myocardial infarction, the most severe form of heart attack, also had a history of cancer.

The study also determined that cancer survivors have a three times higher risk of non-cardiac death. However, the risk of cardiac death is not higher — both at the time of their acute heart attack and over long-term follow-up.

"We've watched cancer survivorship increase over the past 2.5 decades, which is wonderful, but it has led to new challenges, such as handling of downstream illnesses and side effects to an extent never encountered before," Dr. Herrmann said in a statement. "In particular, as cardiologists, we wanted to know if cancer and its therapies left these patients debilitated from a cardiovascular disease standpoint."

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The research team tracked patients for an average of six years. Additional conclusions that have been drawn from the lengthy study include:

• Patients with history of cancer are hospitalized more frequently with carcinogenic shock.

• Patients diagnosed with cancer within the last six months before a heart attack had a seven-fold increased risk of death in the hospital following angioplasty.

• Patients with a history of cancer have a "significantly higher risk" of being hospitalized for heart failure. There's no increased risk of dying from heart disease and these patients eventually die from cancer, researchers found.

"This study supports the importance of cardiologists and oncologists working together to care for these patients," Dr. Herrmann said. "Clearly, our goal is that the cancer patients of today do not become the cardiac patients of the future and, if they do, that we comprehensively see them through."

Other Mayo researchers who took part in the study include: Feilong Wang, Rajiv Gulati, Ryan Lennon, Bradley R. Lewis, Jae Yoon Park, Gurpreet Sandhu, Scott Wright and Amir Lerman.

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