A preliminary report to be delivered at the American College of Cardiology’s annual scientific meeting in San Francisco on Thursday, clearly shows that black women have a much higher rate of heart failure after a breast cancer diagnosis than do other ethnic groups. Health Magazine reported the initial findings of the study on March 7, 2013. The study included a total of 26,000 women.
The study looked at the results of 26,000 women who were diagnosed with breast cancer between 1973 and 2007. Most of the women in the study were 65-years of age or older.
Researchers discovered black women had the highest rate of heart failure. Broken down by ethnicity, the chances of being diagnosed with heart failure after a breast cancer diagnosis is as follows: black women 21 percent, 16 percent among white women, 13 percent among Hispanic women, 12 percent among Asian women, and 11 percent for all other groups including Native Americans.
Causes of heart failure in breast cancer survivors
Unfortunately the treatment for breast cancer can bring on other health problems such as heart failure. Two drugs in particular; Adriamycin and Herceptin, are known to cause heart failure. When used together the results can be fatal, which is why the two drugs are usually given in succession instead of simultaneously.
Ardriamycin is a chemotherapy drug in a class of drugs called anthracycines. This class of chemo is notorious for causing heart problems. The other drug, Herceptin, is used to treat HER-2 positive breast cancers. HER-2 positive breast cancers account for 25 percent of all breast cancers.
Although black women have a higher rate of heart failure, once diagnosed with this condition, the survival rates are the same for black and white women.
Health Magazine reports, “In general, African-American women are more susceptible to heart problems as they are disproportionately affected by high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, high oxidative stress and even vitamin D deficiency,” study lead investigator Dr. Anna Valina-Toth, a second-year internal medicine resident at Case Western Reserve University, in Cleveland, said in a university news release. “Our findings suggest that these women may require closer monitoring to detect the risk of heart failure earlier.”
The link between heart failure and breast cancer is established but the cause of the heart failure is yet to be determined. Black women should be sure to discuss all breast cancer treatment options with their doctors, and perhaps less cardiotoxic drugs should be looked at if possible.