Radiation Raises Women’s Risk of Heart Disease Only Slightly

“Radiation Raises Women’s Risk of Heart Disease Only Slightly, Study Finds.” By Denise Grady, The New York Times

Radiation treatment for breast cancer can increase a woman’s risk of heart disease, doctors have long known. But the size of the added risk has not been clear. In treating a patient for breast cancer, Dr. Silvia Formenti minimizes exposure to radiation by using a table that helps keep the beams away from the heart. A new study offers a way to estimate the risk. It finds that for most women the risk is modest, and that it is outweighed by the benefit from the treatment, which can halve the recurrence rate and lower the death rate from breast cancer by about one-sixth. According to the study, a 50-year-old woman with no cardiovascular risk factors has a 1.9 percent chance of dying of heart disease before she turns 80. Radiation treatment for breast cancer would increase that risk to between 2.4 percent and 3.4 percent, depending on how much radiation hits the heart.

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