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Childhood cancer treatments

Childhood cancer treatments cause permanent damage to children's hearts

Thursday, November 21, 2013 by: Ethan A. Huff, staff writer
Tags: childhood cancer treatments, permanent heart damage, chemotherapy

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(NaturalNews) Assuming that they even survive their treatments, children with cancer whose parents send them down the path of conventional chemotherapy and radiation could end up suffering a life of heart disease. These were the inferred findings of a new study recently presented at the American Heart Association's (AHA) Scientific Sessions 2013, which found that conventional cancer treatments severely damage children's hearts and make them more prone to developing early heart disease.

It has been known for some time that survivors of childhood cancer have a significantly increased risk of developing heart disease as adults. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) admits that, in the 30 years following cancer treatment, childhood cancer survivors are an astounding eight times more likely to die from cardiac-related illness and 15 times more likely to be diagnosed with congestive heart failure compared to the general population.

But now it has been shown for the first time that these risks increase in the short term as well. Children with cancer who receive chemotherapy and radiation are much more prone than their non-cancer counterparts to develop signs of heart disease early. Symptoms can include things like stiffening of the arteries, as well as an overall decline in arterial function.

"Research has shown childhood cancer survivors face heart and other health problems decades after treatment," says Dr. Donald Dengel, Ph.D., a professor of kinesiology at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis and author of the new study. "But researchers had not, until now, looked at the heart health effects of childhood cancer treatment while survivors are still children."

Dr. Dengel and his team looked at 300 boys and girls between the ages of nine and 18 for his study. Each of the children had survived at least five years beyond the time of his or her diagnosis for either leukemia or cancerous tumors. Assessments were made of artery stiffness, thickness and function among all the children and compared to those made of more than 200 healthy siblings without cancer.

Upon analysis, the team found that the cancer survivors who underwent conventional treatments were significantly more likely to exhibit signs of early heart disease compared to their healthy siblings. According to the data, the treatment group experienced a roughly nine percent decrease in arterial health immediately after completing chemotherapy, compared to the non-cancer group.

"Given this increased risk, children who survive cancer should make lifestyle changes to lower their cardiovascular risk," adds Dengel, whose study has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal. "Health care providers who are managing chemotherapy-treated childhood cancer survivors need to monitor cardiovascular risk factors immediately following the completion of their patients' cancer therapy."

Official guidelines for heart health flawed; eat plenty of natural fats and avoid grains, sugar

Unfortunately for these childhood cancer survivors, the official recommended guidelines for lowering cardiovascular risk are inherently flawed. Federal dietary standards still erroneously recommend that people avoid saturated fats, for instance, and consume plenty of whole grains. And little mention is made of the serious dangers associated with consuming refined sugars and flours, another high-risk factor in heart disease.

"[Saturated fats] help to raise beneficial HDL cholesterol, improving your triglyceride/HDL [high density lipoprotein] ratio -- a key marker of cardiovascular health," writes integrative cardiologist Dr. Stephen Sinatra in his piece "Heart Myth Debunked: Saturated Fat Isn't the Enemy." "Saturated fats also help to change your LDL [low density lipoprotein] cholesterol pattern, from small dense particles that can clog your arteries to large 'fluffy' harmless LDL particles."

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