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J Am Coll Cardiol. 2011 Jan 25;57(4):445-52. doi: 10.1016/j.jacc.2010.08.638.

Long-term cardiovascular mortality after radiotherapy for breast cancer.

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  • 1Radiation Epidemiology Group-CESP-Unit 1018 INSERM, Villejuif, France.



This study sought to investigate long-term cardiovascular mortality and its relationship to the use of radiotherapy for breast cancer.


Cardiovascular diseases are among the main long-term complications of radiotherapy, but knowledge is limited regarding long-term risks because published studies have, on average, <20 years of follow-up.


A total of 4,456 women who survived at least 5 years after treatment of a breast cancer at the Institut Gustave Roussy between 1954 and 1984 were followed up for mortality until the end of 2003, for over 28 years on average.


A total of 421 deaths due to cardiovascular diseases were observed, of which 236 were due to cardiac disease. Women who had received radiotherapy had a 1.76-fold (95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.34 to 2.31) higher risk of dying of cardiac disease and a 1.33-fold (95% CI: 0.99 to 1.80) higher risk of dying of vascular disease than those who had not received radiotherapy. Among women who had received radiotherapy, those who had been treated for a left-sided breast cancer had a 1.56-fold (95% CI: 1.27 to 1.90) higher risk of dying of cardiac disease than those treated for a right-sided breast cancer. This relative risk increased with time since the breast cancer diagnosis (p = 0.05).


This study confirmed that radiotherapy, as delivered until the mid-1980s, increased the long-term risk of dying of cardiovascular diseases. The long-term risk of dying of cardiac disease is a particular concern for women treated for a left-sided breast cancer with contemporary tangential breast or chest wall radiotherapy. This risk may increase with a longer follow-up, even after 20 years following radiotherapy.

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