Does having heart disease raise my risk of cancer?

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Courtesy of DHR Health

By: Lee C. Drinkard, M.D., FACP
DHR Health Oncology Institute

The 2 most common causes of death in the United States share many of the same risk factors including age, tobacco use and obesity.

Smoking is an important cause of cardiovascular heart disease. The risk of having a heart attack is 3 to 6 times higher in smokers. Tobacco abuse has been linked 30% of all cancer related deaths in the United States. Smokers have a 10-20-fold higher risk of lung cancer. Tobacco abuse is linked to many other cancers including cancers of the head and neck, kidney, and bladder. Tobacco abuse continues to be the most preventable cause of both heart disease and cancer and continues to remain a public health challenge.

About 35 percent of the US population is obese. Being overweight carries up to an 85% higher risk of heart attack or stroke. Obesity is estimated to cause 20 percent of all cancers. Excess body fat has been linked to an increased risk including, breast, ovarian and colon cancers.

The risk of cardiovascular disease doubles every 10 years starting at 40 years of age from 2% at age 40 to over 30% from 90-100 years of age. Although cancer can occur in people at any age, it is predominantly seen in adults. Breast cancer risk in a woman from birth to age 49 is 2% but increases to up to 12.4% to 100 years of age. Prevention strategies for cancer target adults including mammography beginning in women ages 40-50 and colonoscopy beginning in both sexes at age 50.

In conclusion, heart disease does not clearly cause cancer, but these 2 diseases have many similar causes.

If you or someone you know would like more information on the causes of cancer, please call DHR Health Oncology Institute at (956) 362-2250.