A new study has shown that survivors of pancreatic cancer are at an increased risk of having high cholesterol, diabetes and high blood pressure - all of which predispose them to heart disease.
According to researchers, previous studies have shown that paediatric cancer survivors are up to 10 times more likely to have heart disease, compared to those not affected by this type of cancer.
As part of this study, the researchers set out to determine whether risk factors for heart disease, such as obesity and diabetes, were present at higher rates in cancer survivors.
"If the risk factors could be recognised and treated early it is hoped some of the long-term cardiac side effects could be averted," said lead author, Dr Lillian Meacham of Emory University in Atlanta.
She analysed data relating to 8,599 cancer survivors and 2,936 of their siblings and found that cancer survivors were nearly twice as likely to take medication for high blood pressure as their siblings. They were also 60 percent more likely to take cholesterol medication and 70 percent more likely to have diabetes.
Dr Meacham suggested that radiation treatment for cancer may play a role in the development of risk factors for heart disease.
She found that those who had undergone total body irradiation were at a 5.5-fold increased risk of having a number of cardiovascular risk factors. Those who underwent chest and abdomen radiation were at a 2.2-fold increased risk.
"We are not yet sure why this is, but the association is definitely there," she said.
Meacham also noted that these cardiovascular risk factors were manifesting at around the age of 32, which is much younger than a non-cancer survivor would show signs of such risk factors.
"Some have suggested that when you are a cancer survivor there are parts of you that wear out early, so we need to be vigilant about our follow-up of these patients in order to find these late effects early and intervene," she said.
The study has been published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.