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Physical Activity Can Decrease Cardiovascular Risk in Childhood Cancer Survivors

In those who have survived childhood cancer, an unhealthy lifestyle can compound the risk of cardiovascular disease that can result from intensive cancer therapies. High blood pressure, high waist circumference, and high blood lipids, all of which are commonly found in childhood cancer survivors, can increase the chance of developing cardiovascular disease. However, according to a recent study, childhood cancer survivors could potentially mitigate the risk of cardiovascular disease with physical activity.

The SURfit study, results of which are now published in Cancer, enrolled 163 patients who were 16 years or younger at the time of their cancer diagnosis and were 16 years or older at the time of the study initiation. Patients in the study had a median age at diagnosis of 7 years and a median age of 28 years at the time of the study. Cardiovascular risk factors such as waist circumference, blood pressure, fasting glucose, inverse high-density lipoprotein, and triglycerides were measured. Composite cardiovascular risk score and metabolic syndrome were also evaluated for this study. Cardiopulmonary exercise testing (CPET), a handgrip test, and a 1-minute sit-to-stand test (STS) were all used to determine physical fitness.

The researchers found that 27% of survivors had a high waist circumference, 32% had high blood pressure, 19% had high triglycerides, 20% had an increased composite cardiovascular disease risk score, and 10% had metabolic syndrome. They also discovered that those who had better physical fitness scores during CPET, handgrip test, and STS were more likely not to have a high waist circumference, high triglycerides, and metabolic syndrome.

"Better aerobic fitness (CPET) and, to a lesser extent, handgrip and STS were associated with fewer [cardiovascular] risk factors," conclude the study authors, led by Christina Schindera, MD, a PhD candidate at the Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine at the University of Bern, Switzerland. "Further investigations are warranted to investigate which fitness measures should preferably be used to screen survivors to promote physical activity in those with impaired test performance."

For More Information

Schindera C, Zurcher SJ, Jung R, et al (2021). Physical fitness and modifiable cardiovascular disease risk factors in survivors of childhood cancer: a report from the SURfit study. Cancer. [Epub ahead of print] DOI:10.1002/cncr.33351

Image Courtesy of National Cancer Institute


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