Surgery Linked to Cardiac Death in Cancer Patients

Cardiovascular death significantly more common among cancer patients who undergo surgery

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 17 (HealthDay News) -- Cancer patients who undergo surgery are more than twice as likely to die from a cardiovascular cause within a month of surgery, according to a research letter published in the Oct. 18 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Noting that the increased risk of cardiovascular death among cancer patients has often been attributed to the psychological stress of a cancer diagnosis, Mark Voskoboynik, M.B., B.S., from the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in East Melbourne, Australia, and colleagues examined whether therapeutic or diagnostic surgical procedures were associated with cardiovascular death among 206,955 patients who had been diagnosed with cancer between 1998 and 2008 and died within a month of diagnosis. Of these, 32,990 had undergone surgery for the primary tumor.

The researchers found the likelihood of cardiovascular death to be significantly higher among patients who had undergone surgery for the primary tumor (12.3 versus 5.5 percent). They note that data on possible confounders such as co-existing medical conditions and cardiovascular risk factors were unavailable for these patients, but that patients with clinically relevant comorbidities were less likely to undergo surgery.

"We think that, in the future, investigators reporting cardiovascular death in patients with a recent diagnosis of cancer should report the rates of surgery, since it probably has an effect on the rates of early cardiovascular deaths among these patients, possibly over and above any influence of psychological stress," Voskoboynik and colleagues conclude.

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