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Approved Research

Cardiometabolic and lifestyle determinants of cardiovascular disease risk in breast cancer survivors

Principal Investigator: Ms Julia Rickard
Approved Research ID: 83076
Approval date: March 9th 2022

Lay summary

Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women in the world. There have been tremendous improvements in early detection and treatment of breast cancer and early-stage breast cancer mortality rates have decreased by nearly 50% in the past 40 years as a result. However, now that more women are surviving their breast cancer diagnoses, there has been a rise in cardiovascular disease in this population. In fact, women with a breast cancer diagnosis are more at risk for cardiovascular disease at all time points following their diagnosis when compared to women without breast cancer. This elevated risk is credited to a variety of factors including cardiotoxic (causes damage to the heart) cancer treatment, poor lifestyle behaviours (e.g. physical inactivity and smoking), the overlap between the risk factors for breast cancer and cardiovascular disease, and ectopic (abnormal location) fat deposition. Our research group is interested in further understanding cardiometabolic dysfunction in breast cancer survivors and its role in elevated cardiovascular disease risk.

This 6-month project aims to evaluate the influence of a breast cancer diagnosis on cardiovascular and metabolic health. Established cardiometabolic risk factors such as blood pressure and lipid profile, cardiac structure and function, ectopic fat volumes, fitness, components of the metabolic syndrome, lifestyle behaviours (such as physical activity and alcohol consumption) and Framingham risk score will be compared between women with and without a history of breast cancer. We also aim to examine the association between lifestyle behaviours and cardiovascular disease risk in all women, and if this risk differs between those with and without a history of breast cancer. In addition, we aim to explore whether menopausal status and the female sex hormone, estrogen, play a role in these relationships.

By establishing the reasons behind the elevated cardiovascular disease risk, we are able to better understand the cardiometabolic dysfunction experienced by breast cancer survivors. This allows researchers to develop risk reduction interventions and strategies to mitigate this risk and improve the health of breast cancer survivors.