One of the most common birth defects, congenital heart disease (CHD) is associated with an increased risk of developing cancer. Zacharias Mandalenakis, MD and colleagues conducted a study to further explore the link between CHD and cancer. In this interview with i3 Health, Dr. Mandalenakis provides insights on this link and strategies for mitigating risk.
What led you to research this topic?
Zacharias Mandalenakis, MD, PhD: I am an adult cardiologist, and I work at the Adult Congenital Heart Association (ACHD) unit in Gothenburg, Sweden. Recent studies have shown an association between CHD and the development of cancer. However, the risk to develop cancer from birth in patients with CHD compared to controls without CHD was unknown. Therefore, we aimed to investigate it.
Why is cancer risk higher among those with CHD compared with their healthy peers?
Dr. Mandalenakis: It is presumed to be due to repeated radiation exposure, genetic predisposition, or a continued stress factor during heart interventions. However, we still do not know why. The risk is more than two times higher in patients with CHD compared to those without. Our next step is to find out why.
How can this risk be mitigated?
Dr. Mandalenakis: The risk can be mitigated with a systematic screening for cancer in this risk group of patients.
What should cardiologists and oncologists take away from your findings?
Dr. Mandalenakis: The survivorship in patients with CHD has increased enormously over the past few decades, and we expect that acquired complications will occur, both cardiovascular and non-cardiovascular. Screening is one of the main methods in order to detect early and/or prevent the comorbidity. Lifetime management is our vision and our goal.
About Dr. Mandalenakis
Zacharias Mandalenakis, MD, PhD works as an adult cardiologist in Gothenburg, Sweden. His research interests include cardiovascular medicine and epidemiology.
For More Information
Mandalenakis Z, Karazisi C, Skoglund K, et al (2019). Risk of cancer among children and young adults with congenital heart disease compared with healthy controls. JAMA Netw Open, 2(7):e196762. DOI:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2019.6762
Transcript edited for clarity. Any views expressed above are the speaker's own and do not necessarily represent the views of i3 Health.