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Heart disease and cancer may be related

A recent study presented at the American Heart Association annual meeting in Philadelphia came to what I would call a totally unsurprising conclusion, namely that someone who is at high risk for heart disease is also at high risk for cancer.

And the reason I say this is unsurprising is that if I’ve learned anything over the last 30 years of reading endless studies about disease risk factors it’s that many types of cancer and heart disease have basically the same risk factors (I think you can also add dementia and a bunch of other chronic health conditions into that same bag).

So in this latest study, researchers looked at data from roughly 13,000 people enrolled in the famous nearly-seventy-year-long Framingham Heart Study (clearly, researchers are now studying 3rd and 4th generation Framinghamians) and found that compared to a healthy control, a person who had had a serious heart event such as a heart attack had about a 7 times higher risk of also developing some type of cancer.

But even people who had not had a heart attack – yet – but who had very high risks for one were about 3 times more likely to develop cancer than people without such high risks.

Does heart disease lead to cancer?

Maybe since heart disease leads to inflammation, which is also a known risk factor for cancer.

More likely, though, is that the same reasons one develops heart disease at an early age – same-old, same-old of smoking, excess alcohol intake, sedentary lifestyle, poor diet – are also important factors in developing many types of cancer.