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BACKGROUND: Improved breast cancer (BC) survival and evidence showing beneficial effects of internal mammary chain (IMC) irradiation underscore the importance of studying late cardiovascular effects of BC treatment. METHODS: We assessed cardiovascular disease (CVD) incidence in 14,645 Dutch BC patients aged <62 years, treated during 1970-2009. Analyses included proportional hazards models and general population comparisons. RESULTS: CVD rate-ratio for left-versus-right breast irradiation without IMC was 1.11 (95% CI 0.93-1.32). Compared to right-sided breast irradiation only, IMC irradiation (interquartile range mean heart doses 9-17 Gy) was associated with increases in CVD rate overall, ischaemic heart disease (IHD), heart failure (HF) and valvular heart disease (hazard ratios (HRs): 1.6-2.4). IHD risk remained increased until at least 20 years after treatment. Anthracycline-based chemotherapy was associated with an increased HF rate (HR = 4.18, 95% CI 3.07-5.69), emerging <5 years and remaining increased at least 10-15 years after treatment. IMC irradiation combined with anthracycline-based chemotherapy was associated with substantially increased HF rate (HR = 9.23 95% CI 6.01-14.18), compared to neither IMC irradiation nor anthracycline-based chemotherapy. CONCLUSIONS: Women treated with anthracycline-based chemotherapy and IMC irradiation (in an older era) with considerable mean heart dose exposure have substantially increased incidence of several CVDs. Screening may be appropriate for some BC patient groups.

Original publication




Journal article


Br J Cancer

Publication Date





408 - 418


Adult, Anthracyclines, Breast Neoplasms, Cardiovascular Diseases, Chemoradiotherapy, Female, Humans, Incidence, Middle Aged, Netherlands, Radiotherapy, Survival Analysis, Treatment Outcome, Young Adult