Heart failure more fatal than most common cancers

Heart failure carries with it a higher risk of death than most common types of cancer according to new research from the University of Aberdeen in collaboration with the Universities of Keele, Manchester and East Anglia.

The database study published today in the European Journal of Heart Failure today (May 4) found that 5 years post-diagnosis, men diagnosed with heart failure had 64% greater risk of dying than men diagnosed with prostate cancer and 14% greater risk of dying than those diagnosed with bladder cancer.  In women, those diagnosed with heart failure had 82% greater risk of dying than those women diagnosed with breast cancer. 

Data were collected from more than 56 thousand people between 2000 and 2011 from 393 general practices in Scotland and this is the first study of its kind to compare the effects of heart failure and cancer in the primary care setting for men and women separately. The data were drawn from the source which included patient information for approximately a third of the Scottish population and represented a mixture of age, gender and socioeconomic status.

Heart failure describes a condition where the heart does not pump blood around the body as well as it should and 1-2% of the general population is affected by this condition.   It is very common for those with heart failure to have a simultaneous or ‘co-morbid’ illness and in this study only 5.5% of those with heart failure did not have another disease as well, compared to 20-38% of cancer patients.   The results of this study suggest that successful treatment of heart failure should also consider treating the secondary illness. 

Professor Phyo Kyaw Myint, University of Aberdeen said: “Patients with heart failure also have other co-morbid diseases, and therefore understanding of outcome in this patient group is important for clinicians. This study also reminds us that observational studies are important in clinical research because clinical trials do not include the typical older people we manage in day to day clinical practice.”

Professor Mamas Mamas, Professor of Cardiology at Keele University stated: “The findings of this study are important, our study shows that despite advances in the treatment of heart failure with newer drugs and devices, mortality rates remain significant and heart failure remains as malignant as many of the common cancers.”

Dr Matt Sperrin, Health eResearch Centre at The University of Manchester commented: “This study highlights how anonymised data from general practices can be used to uncover evidence that helps us understand how patients can be best managed. The comparison will hopefully highlight the potential impact of heart failure to the public, who can take proactive steps to prevent it.”