The Link between Cancer and Heart Diseases

By  ,  Onlymyhealth editorial team
May 17, 2014
Quick Bites

  • Cancer is the uncontrolled growth of a cell
  • Heart diseases are the disorders of the heart
  • Researchers have established links between the two
  • Cancer treatment can also affect the heart.

Cancer and heart diseases are two of the most seriously health problems that humans experience. Even though they have been found to have no link, certain new studies suggest that there could be a possible connection between the two. Although, there is a need for more researches to be done to confirm this, cancer has been reportedly found to have an effect on the cardiovascular system.

link between cancer and heart


Cancer is a class of diseases which are characterized by uncontrolled cell growth. When the damaged cells divide uncontrollably to form masses of tissue called tumor, the body gets some damage which may get even worse. There are more than 100 different types of cancer, and each is classified by the type of cell that is affected initially. A cancerous cell moves throughout the body using the blood or lymph systems, destroying other healthy tissues. Cancer has been reportedly found to have an effect on the cardiovascular system as well.


Tumors that show limited growth and stay at a place are considered benign. However it can usually grow and interfere with other systems of the body. Cancer can affect the nervous, digestive, and circulatory systems, and also release hormones that can alter normal body function.

Heart Disease

Heart disease is a generalized term used for any type of disorder that directly affects the heart. Heart disease means the same as cardiac disease however they are different from the cardiovascular diseases. The cardiovascular diseases involve the disorders of the blood vessels and the heart, while a heart disease involves disorders of just the heart. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in several parts of the world.

Arrhythmia, cardiomyopathy, heart failure, heart attack and congenital heart disease are the common types of heart diseases. Arrhythmia is the condition of abnormal rhythm of the heartbeat while cardiomyopathy is the disease of the heart muscle rather than the blood supply or the pacemaker. A heart failure means that the heart is unable to pump ample amount of blood while a heart attack occurs when a blood clot suddenly blocks an artery.

The Link

Although it is getting better with time, cancer treatment isn't a precise science yet. It is hard to destroy cancer cells without risking collateral damage to other parts of the body. While there are clearly visible side effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy such as hair loss, and fatigue, there can also be some hidden inner damage. Sometimes the damage is done directly to the heart and the arteries.

 According to research conducted at Columbia University Medical Center, New York,  patients with early stages of breast cancer and hearts being directly irradiated with radiation treatments had higher risk of heart disease. Several reports from the research suggested links between breast cancer radiation and long-term heart problems.


According to the results of a research conducted at New York University Department of Radiation Oncology, the treatment of breast cancer poses a higher risk of some damage to the heart when the heart is in the field of the treatment. The effects of radiation exposure on cardiac disease were found to be multiplicative. The researchers stated that the highest absolute radiation risks correspond to the highest baseline cardiac risk.

Another research conducted at the US National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, suggest similar link between heart disease and cancer. The study concluded that a common virus infects the cells that line the inner wall of the arteries and sets them on a path of uncontrolled cancer like growth. The researchers found that the plaque cells taken from about 33 percent of the patients whose arteries re-narrowed after angioplasty, have lost the p53 proteins which acts as brakes to slow down cell growth. Since the same proteins also fail to function in most human cancers, the study was able to established connection between cancer and heart disease.



Image Courtesy: Getty Images

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