Can Prostate Cancer Increase Heart Attack Risk?

A research project based in Sweden has indicated that the stress of being diagnosed with prostate cancer may significantly increase your risk of suffering an imminent and fatal heart attack.

Furthermore, the cause of the heart attack appears to be linked to the actual shock of receiving the bad news about the diagnosis of the prostate cancer, rather than an underlying or pre-existing heart disease condition. This is according to the findings of the study published in the medical journal PLoS Medicine Reports.

Prostate cancer is a serious and potentially fatal cancer of the prostate gland, and is a medical condition that is responsible for nearly one eighth of all male deaths from cancer in the United Kingdom. The highest actual number of diagnosed prostate gland cases occur in the United States, although the US lies in eighth place in terms of mortality from the disease.

In 2007 there were more than ten thousand deaths in the UK from prostate cancer, and each year more than thirty five thousand new cases are diagnosed. The only type of cancer that kills more people after prostate cancer is lung cancer. The majority of prostate cancer deaths occur in men aged 65 and over, After the age of 85 it overtakes lung cancer to become the most common cause of cancer deaths.

The heart attack research was based on a study of the medical records of more than four million men, and spanned over forty years. From the study group approximately four percent, or 170,000 men went on to develop prostate cancer. It has revealed that in the crucial short term period following the diagnosis of prostate cancer, the patients were found to be over ten times more likely to die from heart related problems and heart attacks during the first week after the initial diagnosis.

Another shocking statistic that emerged is that young people as well as those with no history of cardiovascular disease were found to be particularly at risk. But the problem remained active for far longer than one would imagine, with an elevated risk still present in patients up to a year after the initial diagnosis of the prostate cancer.

However, the British Prostate Cancer Charity has reacted cautiously to the study findings. A statement by the charity’s Head of Policy and Campaigns, Sarah Cant, has highlighted that the Swedish study failed to take into account certain factors such as pre-existing cardiovascular disease, hypertension and high blood pressure and even mental health problems and suicide. She is quoted as saying that more research into the subject and linkage needs to be performed.

It is also interesting to note that, whilst prostate cancer is predominantly a male disease, the same principal of shock news potentially triggering heart attacks could reasonably be applied to women who have been recently diagnosed with breast cancer.

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