Researchers have found that postmenopausal women with breast cancer are at greater risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
"Heart disease appears more commonly in women treated for breast cancer because of the toxicities of chemotherapy, radiation therapy and use of aromatase inhibitors, which lower estrogen," said JoAnn Pinkerton, Professor at the University of Virginia.
The cardiovascular effects may occur more than five years after radiation exposure, with the risk persisting for up to 30 years.
"Heart-healthy lifestyle modifications will decrease both the risk of recurrent breast cancer and the risk of developing heart disease," Pinkerton said.
The goal of the study was to compare and evaluate risk factors for cardiovascular disease in postmenopausal women who are survivors of breast cancer and women without breast cancer.
For the findings, more than 90 postmenopausal breast cancer survivors were compared with 192 postmenopausal women.
The researchers found that postmenopausal women who are survivors of breast cancer showed a markedly stronger association with metabolic syndrome, diabetes, atherosclerosis, hypertriglyceridemia and abdominal obesity, which are major risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
The risk of cardiovascular mortality similarly increased to match death rates from cancer itself.
"Women should schedule a cardiology consultation when breast cancer is diagnosed and continue with ongoing follow-up after cancer treatments are completed," she added.
The study was published in the Menopause: The Journal of the North American Menopause Society.