Common sign of cardiovascular disease may also indicate cancer risk

Written by Ilana Landau, Editor

The results of a new, longitudinal study suggest that microvascular endothelial dysfunction — a common early indicator of cardiovascular disease — may double individuals’ risk of solid-tumor cancer too.

Cardiovascular disease is a leading cause of mortality globally. Microvascular endothelial dysfunction is a commonly used sign for identifying individuals at risk of developing more advanced heart disease. Now, the results of a new Mayo Clinic (MN, USA)-led study suggest that microvascular endothelial dysfunction may also be a useful indicator of individuals’ solid-tumor cancer risk.

In the study, researchers investigated 488 patients who underwent reactive hyperemia peripheral arterial tonometry — a noninvasive assessment for determining microvascular endothelial dysfunction — at the Mayo Clinic between 2006 and 2014. 221 of the 488 individuals assessed were diagnosed with microvascular endothelial dysfunction — defined by a test score index of two or less.

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Over the course of a mean 6-year follow-up period, 9.5% of individuals diagnosed with microvascular endothelial dysfunction received a solid tumor cancer diagnosis. By contrast, only 3.7% of the remaining 267 individuals who underwent testing, but had index scores of more than two, were diagnosed with cancer over this same period.

This difference remained significant even after researchers adjusted for participants’ demographic characteristics, including their ages and genders.

Senior study author Amir Lerman, a cardiologist at the Mayo Clinic, stated: “This abnormal vasoreactivity should alert clinicians not only to the risk of cardiovascular disease but to malignancy, as well. This risk prediction appears to precede the development of disease by more than 5 years.”


What is microvascular endothelial dysfunction?

Microvascular endothelial dysfunction comprises damage occurring to the walls of small arteries in the heart. This damage affects the ability of these vessels to expand and carry oxygen-rich blood freely.

What are the symptoms of microvascular endothelial dysfunction?

Symptoms of microvascular endothelial dysfunction can include hypertension, hyperlipidemia and chest pain.