Cancer Survivors Twice As Likely To Die From Stroke, Study Says

25 Nov, 2019 F.J. Thomas


Hershey, PA ( – A new study from Penn State Cancer Institute suggests that cancer doubles the risk of stroke. The study, Stroke Among Cancer Patients, published earlier this month in Nature Research and written by Nicholas G. Zaorsky, MD with fellow researchers reviewed data from the National Cancer Institute's Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) program. The SEER program has been collecting data about cancer cases since 1973. The data reviewed included invasive cancer cases from 1992 to 2015 on 7.5 million patients. The goal of the study was to identify those cancer patients that were at greatest risk of stroke.

Of the 7,529,481 cancer patients that were followed, 80,513 patients died of stroke. The risk of stroke is twice that of the general population, and the rate increases with follow up time. While the chances of stroke were the same for males and females, those with a younger diagnosis age had a greater chance of stroke. Additionally, a higher incidence of stroke was noted in patients that had been diagnosed under the age of 40 with brain tumors and lymphomas. For those diagnosed over the age of 40, a higher stroke incidence was seen in patients that had prostate, breast and colorectal cancer. The study makes mention that it is estimated that 12 percent of stroke victims have an occult malignancy.

One potential cause according to Zaorsky, is that cancer patients tend to be prothrombotic, meaning that they are more likely to form a blood clot due to the medications involved in treatment.

In a report from EurekAlert, assistant professor of neurosurgery Brad Zacharia, MD suspects that the effects of certain types of treatment may affect the blood vessels, especially in patients with brain tumors. "We can speculate that a subset of cancer patients are receiving chemotherapy or radiation treatments that may have a direct effect on the blood vessels to the brain and could increase stroke risk."

In the United States, cancer is the leading cause of death, and the third leading cause worldwide. Stroke is the fifth leading causing of death in the U.S.. With the life expectancy of cancer survivors increasing, Zaorsky feels that it is critical to identify those cancer survivors with the most risk so that a treatment protocol can be developed to address stroke in those patients.

The full study is available on the Nature Research website.

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    About The Author

    • F.J. Thomas

      F.J. Thomas has worked in healthcare business for more than fifteen years in Tennessee. Her experience as a contract appeals analyst has given her an intimate grasp of the inner workings of both the provider and insurance world. Knowing first hand that the industry is constantly changing, she strives to find resources and information you can use.

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