Prostate drugs could treble heart death risk

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One of the most common treatments for prostate cancer can triple the risk of heart death for patients who have a history of significant cardiac problems, according to a major new study.

The Harvard study followed 5,000 men with prostate cancer with an average age of 70. One third of patients were put on androgen deprivation therapy (ADT).

The research found that among those with a history of heart problems, risks of heart death rose significantly after undergoing the hormone therapy.

The study found that men who had previously had a heart attack, or suffered congestive heart failure, had three times the risk of heart-related deaths compared to men who were not on the therapy.

Overall, the risk of patients with a history of cardiac problems dying from a heart-related problem within five years was 7%, compared with 2% among those not on the therapy. 

ADT works by reducing levels of male hormones in the body, to prevent them from stimulating cancer cells. Around 14,000 cases of prostate cancer a year are suitable for the treatment.

Around one in ten men has suffered a heart attack or suffered from congestive heart failure by the age of 70, while prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in the UK, developing in around one third of men over the age of 50.

Each year around 40,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer, with around 10,000 deaths resulting from the disease. 

Dr Paul Nyugen, from Harvard Medical School, said prostate cancer patients with a history of significant heart disease need to closely look at the risks and benefits of hormone treatment.

“While androgen deprivation therapy can be a lifesaving drug for men with prostate cancer and significantly increase the cure rates when used with radiation for aggressive disease, this study also raises the possibility that a small subgroup of men who have significant heart disease could experience increased cardiac death on ADT,” he said.