Here is a summary of the latest research:

Breast Cancer

Radiotherapy for breast cancer may expose the heart and vessels to late radiation-induced complications. Although recent technical progress in radiation therapy has been associated with drastic reduction in cardiovascular  mortality, the prolonged life expectancy of patients with cancer requires cardiovascular evaluation for many years. This study data shows local arterial stiffening because of radiation that can be involved in increased cardiovascular risk in breast cancer-treated patients.1

The problem is breathing – when a breast cancer patients receives radiation therapy, the tumor moves as the patient breathes. The radiation beam must be made wider to make sure the tumor is always in the “line of fire.” This can damage the heart. Doctors are trying and reporting on various risk reduction methods for patient breathing techniques during radiation therapy.2

Prostate Cancer

Doctors say that among men treated for prostate cancer, those who received radiation therapy were more likely to develop bladder or rectal cancer.

University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center researchers looked at the number of secondary cancers that developed 10 or more years after men were diagnosed with prostate cancer. As a whole, men diagnosed with prostate cancer were at a lower risk of developing a second cancer. But when researchers looked at patients who received external beam radiation therapy, they found these patients were estimated to be 70 percent more likely to be diagnosed with a rectal cancer and 40 percent more likely for bladder cancer than the general public.3

Researchers reporting in the Journal of Clinical Oncology say that elderly, early-stage breast cancer patients, maybe getting radiation treatment that offers no extra benefit and may put them at risk for greater side-effects.4

Radiation therapy used to treat uterine cancer may increase a patient’s risk of developing bladder cancer

In other research, doctors found that radiation therapy used to treat uterine cancer may increase a patient’s risk of developing bladder cancer. The findings indicate the importance of monitoring patients for potential signs of bladder cancer to ensure early diagnosis and treatment.

In the United States, uterine cancer is the fourth most common cancer in women. In addition to surgery, 38 percent of patients undergo pelvic radiation therapy to decrease uterine cancer recurrence. Studies have found that women treated with radiation therapy for uterine cancer, like men who received radiation therapy for prostate cancer, have an increased risk of developing bladder cancer later in life.5


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1 Vallerio P, Sarno L, Stucchi M, et al. Long-Term Effects of Radiotherapy on Arterial Stiffness in Breast Cancer Women. Am J Cardiol. 2016 Sep 1;118(5):771-6.

2. Becker-Schiebe M, Stockhammer M, Hoffmann W, Wetzel F, Franz H. Does mean heart dose sufficiently reflect coronary artery exposure in left-sided breast cancer radiotherapy? : Influence of respiratory gating. Strahlenther Onkol. 2016  Sep;192(9):624-631.

3. http://mcancer.org/news/archive/radiation-prostate-cancer-linked-secondary-cancers-study-finds

4. Soulos PR, Yu JB, Roberts KB, et al. Assessing the Impact of a Cooperative Group Trial on Breast Cancer Care in the Medicare Population. Journal of Clinical Oncology 10.1200/JCO.2011.39.4890

5. Janet E. Baack Kukreja, Emil Scosyrev, Ralph A. Brasacchio, Eugene P. Toy, Edward M Messing, Guan Wu. Bladder Cancer Incidence and Mortality in Patients Treated with Radiation for Uterine Cancer. BJU International, 2013; DOI: 10.1111/bju.12543