Risk of cardiac death after adjuvant radiotherapy for breast cancer

Sharon H Giordano, Yong-Fang Kuo, Jean L Freeman, Thomas A Buchholz, Gabriel N Hortobagyi, James S Goodwin
Journal of the National Cancer Institute 2005 March 16, 97 (6): 419-24

BACKGROUND: Women with breast cancer who are treated with adjuvant radiation have a decreased risk of local recurrence but an increased risk of mortality from ischemic heart disease. Patients with left-sided breast tumors receive a higher dose of radiation to the heart than patients with right-sided tumors. Because radiation techniques have improved over time, we investigated whether the risk of death from ischemic heart disease after adjuvant breast radiotherapy decreased over time.

METHODS: We used the 12-registry 1973-2000 dataset from the National Cancer Institute's Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) program. Women (n = 27,283) treated with adjuvant radiation for breast cancer diagnosed in 1973-1989 were included in the study. Ischemic heart disease mortality was calculated at 15 years and compared for women diagnosed during 1973-1979, 1980-1984, and 1985-1989. Cox proportional hazards models were used to calculate the hazard of death from ischemic heart disease for women diagnosed 1973-1988 and censored at 12 years. All statistical tests were two-sided.

RESULTS: There were no differences in age, race/ethnicity, disease stage, or follow-up time between the 13 998 women with left-sided and 13 285 with right-sided cancer. For women diagnosed in 1973-1979, there was a statistically significant difference in 15-year mortality from ischemic heart disease between patients with left-sided (13.1%, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 11.6 to 14.6) and those with right-sided (10.2%, 95% CI = 8.9 to 11.5) breast cancer (P = .02); no such difference was found for women diagnosed in 1980-1984 (9.4%, [95% CI = 8.1 to 10.6] versus 8.7% [95% CI = 7.4 to 10.0], respectively, P = .64) or 1985-1989 (5.8% [95% CI = 4.8 to 6.8] versus 5.2% [95% CI = 4.4 to 5.9], respectively, P = .98). In the Cox model, the hazard ratio [HR] for ischemic heart disease mortality for women with left-sided versus women with right-sided disease was 1.50 (95% CI = 1.19 to 1.87) in 1979. With each succeeding year after 1979, the hazard of death from ischemic heart disease for women with left-sided versus those with right-sided disease declined by 6% (HR = 0.94, 95% CI = 0.91 to 0.98).

CONCLUSIONS: Risk of death from ischemic heart disease associated with radiation for breast cancer has substantially decreased over time.

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