Heart Failure More Likely for African-Americans Post-Treatment

Breast Cancer News
July 3, 2013
Nicole Katze, MA, Editor and Manager, Content Development
Reviewed By: 
Abenaa M. Brewster, MD, MHS

Breast cancer treatment poses greater risk to African-Americans than to their Caucasian peers

Researchers who presented at the American College of Cardiology’s Annual Scientific Session found that race is associated with the risk of developing heart failure after treatment for breast cancer. Heart failure is weakness of the heart muscle that affects the heart’s ability to pump blood throughout the body.

Anthracycline-based chemotherapy is standard treatment for many women with all types of breast cancer. Trastuzumab (Herceptin) is commonly given to those with HER2 positive breast cancer. Heart problems are a possible side effect of both treatments, with a woman’s risk increasing if she receives anthracycline-based chemotherapy followed by trastuzumab.

Study Background

Past studies have shown that certain types of treatments commonly used for women with breast cancer such as anthracyclines and trastuzumab are associated with a higher risk of developing heart failure. Little is known about the impact of race on the risk of heart failure among women treated for breast cancer and the investigators wanted to explore whether certain racial groups of women faced more risk than others.

Study Design

Researchers reviewed data on 26,347 women diagnosed with breast cancer between 1973 and 2007 recorded in the U.S. Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER)-Medicare database. They performed statistical analyses to find out whether race affected the risk of heart failure.


Sixteen percent of the women studied were diagnosed with heart failure. When researchers took into account race, age, type of chemotherapy received, high blood pressure, diabetes and the use of heart-protective medicines, they found that African-American women had a 40 percent higher risk of developing heart failure than Caucasian women.

What This Means For You

This research adds to the information available on the influence of race on side effects of breast cancer treatment. Though the study suggests the risk of heart failure following treatment may be greatest for African-American women, it is important to know that the benefits of therapies for breast cancer often outweigh potential risks.

If you are an African-American woman and are concerned about how your breast cancer treatments may affect your heart health, talk with your doctor about ways you can lessen your risk of heart-related side effects. Your healthcare providers will be able to offer more detailed information.

To learn more about treatment side effects, visit lbbc.org.

Valina-Toth, AL, Zavodnik, T, Seicean, S, Plana, J, Marwick, T. African American Race Is A Correlate Of Heart Failure In Breast Cancer Survivors: A Study Of 26,347 Women Identified With Breast Cancer From 1973 - 2007. Journal of the American College of Cardiology. 2013; 61 (10_S). doi:10.1016/S0735-1097(13)60580-X

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