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Certain Cancers Linked to Higher A-Fib Risk, Study Finds

WEDNESDAY, March 18, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- People with a history of certain cancers have more than double the risk for the heart rhythm disorder atrial fibrillation, a new study says.

A-fib is a common disorder that can lead to palpitations, dizziness and fatigue. Untreated, it can cause blood clots, stroke and heart failure, and people with a-fib have five times the risk of stroke than other people.

"When we looked at everyone with some form of a-fib, those with certain types of cancer were more likely to have heart rhythm abnormalities, and this trend persisted even after accounting for other cardiovascular risk factors and disease," said lead author Dr. Muhammad Khan, an internal medicine resident at St. Mary's Medical Center in Langhorne, Pa.

Previous research has found that people with cancer are at greater risk for developing a-fib prior to and after starting treatment. But this is the first study to examine a-fib's association with specific cancer types, according to the authors.

Their findings are based on an analysis of data from about 14.5 million people in the United States with a-fib. Rates of a-fib were highest among prostate cancer patients, followed by those with colon, lung and breast cancers.

The study was to be presented Wednesday at an online meeting of the American College of Cardiology/World Congress of Cardiology.

"We found 2.3-fold increased odds of having a-fib with all cancers studied," Khan said in a meeting news release. "There was a greater than 50% increased risk of a-fib in prostate, colon and lung cancer patients. Of these three, those with prostate cancer had the highest risk."

While only an association was seen, the findings suggest that other factors related to the specific type of cancer itself may contribute a-fib, according to Khan.

"For example, these cancers may be associated with higher mortality due to circulating pro-coagulants and greater systemic inflammation, but this relationship has yet to be studied," he said.

"Based on our findings, certain patients should be considered at higher risk of a-fib and may benefit from cardiac evaluation and appropriate treatments, whether it be with medication or ablative techniques, to help improve the survival rates in the long-term," Khan concluded.

Research presented at meetings is typically considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

More information

The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more on atrial fibrillation.

SOURCE: American College of Cardiology, news release, March 18, 2020

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