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Advances in cardiovascular disease research have implications for cancer prevention

Jan 07, 2015 |

Some recent advances in cardiovascular disease research and prevention will have important implications for the prevention of other chronic diseases, including cancer.

In a paper published in Nature Reviews Cardiology on December 23, 2014, Dr. Carolyn Gotay, a Professor in the UBC School of Population and Public Health, Canadian Cancer Society Chair in Cancer Primary Prevention, and Director of the Cancer Prevention Centre, and Dr. Nizal Sarrafzadegan, a Visiting Professor at the UBC School of Population and Public Health, highlighted five notable advances in cardiovascular disease research in 2014.

Some risk factors for cardiovascular disease are similar, if not the same as, risk factors for cancer. Therefore, some of the same interventions to reduce cardiovascular disease risk may also reduce risk for cancer.

One of the studies Drs. Gotay and Sarrafzadegan highlighted was a population-based, prospective cohort study of more than 20,000 Swedish men that examined the effect of adherence to five tenets of healthy lifestyle on the risk for heart attack, which included eating a healthy diet, limiting alcohol consumption, not smoking, being physically active, and maintaining a healthy body weight. In the study, only 1% of the men exhibited all five lifestyle factors, but these men experienced a 79% reduction in risk for heart attack. The study also found that men who adhered to only one or a few of the healthy lifestyle factors still had a lowered risk for heart attack. This study is important because it reinforces research that a healthy lifestyle can prevent many cardiovascular diseases—and about half of cancers.

The authors highlighted another study that featured a nurse-led prevention program that increased smoking cessation and reduced cardiovascular risk, particularly when combined with pharmacological treatment, healthy eating, physical activity, and blood pressure control. About 80% of lung cancers are attributable to smoking, so the highlighted smoking cessation program could be a model for a cancer prevention intervention.

The other highlighted studies included findings that adherence to cholesterol guidelines in high-risk patients with stroke and pre-existing cardiovascular disease is low; fine particulate matter air pollution contributes to deaths from heart disease in individuals with or without underlying heart disorders; and an approach for identifying people who might benefit from a polypill targeting risk reduction of several cardiovascular diseases.

Read the full paper