Heart disease risk factors are common among men with breast cancer, a new, small study finds.

Researchers analyzed the medical records of 24 male breast cancer patients, aged 38 to 79. Half had a family history of breast cancer.

Nearly 8 in 10 of the patients had invasive ductal carcinoma, which is the most common type of breast cancer and occurs when cancer starts in the breast ducts and spreads into surrounding breast tissue.

About 9 in 10 of the patients were overweight, 58% had high blood pressure and 54% had high cholesterol.

All patients had a mastectomy, 4% received anthracycline chemotherapy, 8% received HER2-targeted therapy, 16% received radiation and 71% received hormone therapy.

Six of the men were diagnosed with a secondary primary malignancy and three with a third primary malignancy.

An abnormally increased heart rate (tachyarrhythmia) was already present in 8% of patients and developed in 13% of patients while undergoing treatment. Two patients had decreased ejection fraction (a decrease in how much blood the heart pumps out with each beat), and two patients developed heart failure after treatment.

The study was presented Monday as part of the American College of Cardiology’s (ACC) Advancing the Cardiovascular Care of the Oncology Patient Virtual course. Such research is considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

“Due to the rarity of male breast cancer, there is no cardiovascular data from larger clinical trials or population studies,” said study author Michael Ibrahim, a fourth-year medical student at Georgetown University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C.

“The lack of large data makes it even more important to individualize cardiovascular assessment and management based on each patient’s unique oncologic, therapeutic and preexisting cardiovascular risk profile to support them through cancer treatment into survivorship,” he said in an ACC news release.

The high rate of heart problems in male breast cancer patients warrants further investigation to better understand the risk of preexisting heart disease on long-term outcomes for these patients, according to the researchers.

The findings also show that cardiologists and cardio-oncologists need to be involved in male breast cancer treatment due to the common heart risk factors and potential toxic effects on the heart of breast cancer treatment, the study authors said.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more on male breast cancer.

SOURCE: American College of Cardiology, news release, Jan. 25, 2021