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03-09-2012 | General practice | Article

CAD risk no higher in head and neck cancer


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medwireNews: Researchers have shown that people with head or neck cancer are not necessarily at any greater risk for developing coronary artery disease (CAD) than the general population.

Although a link between the development of CAD and certain cancers has previously been suggested, the study showed that among head and neck cancer patients, the risk for developing CAD was almost the same as it was for healthy individuals over a 6 to 9-year period.

"This study evaluated an issue which was seldom touched by researchers before - the risk of CAD among patients with head and neck cancers," say Chia-Hung Kao (China Medical University Hospital, Taichung, Taiwan) and colleagues.

As reported in Clinical Otolaryngology, the team's analysis of data from the Taiwan National Health Insurance database showed that among 729 patients diagnosed with head or neck cancers between 2000 and 2003, the incidence rate of CAD was 13% lower than in 2899 age- and gender-matched healthy controls, at 11.1 versus 12.8 per 1000 person-years.

After adjustment for gender and age, the hazard ratio (HR) for the head and neck cancer patients to develop CAD was a nonsignificant 0.95.

Compared with controls, the risk for developing CAD was lowest in the cancer patients who were receiving radiotherapy only and highest in those not receiving any treatment, although these differences did not reach statistical significance.

Furthermore, the risk for CAD did not significantly differ by cancer type (tongue, nasopharynx, oral cavity, oropharynx, or hypopharynx cancer).

However, Kao and team say the negative findings may be partly due to the small number of cancer cases studied.

In addition, well-known risk factors for head and cancer that could plausibly be associated with CAD, including smoking, drinking, behavior, and unhealthy lifestyle were not adjusted for in comparative analysis, as the insurance database used does not provide this level of patient information.

"Further large-scale studies with longer follow-up periods are needed to confirm our findings," concludes the team.

medwireNews ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2012

By Sally Robertson, medwireNews Reporter

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