Heart rate and risk of cancer death in healthy men

PLoS One. 2011;6(8):e21310. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0021310. Epub 2011 Aug 3.


Background: Data from several previous studies examining heart-rate and cardiovascular risk have hinted at a possible relationship between heart-rate and non-cardiac mortality. We thus systematically examined the predictive value of heart-rate variables on the subsequent risk of death from cancer.

Methods: In the Paris Prospective Study I, 6101 asymptomatic French working men aged 42 to 53 years, free of clinically detectable cardiovascular disease and cancer, underwent a standardized graded exercise test between 1967 and 1972. Resting heart-rate, heart-rate increase during exercise, and decrease during recovery were measured. Change in resting heart-rate over 5 years was also available in 5139 men. Mortality including 758 cancer deaths was assessed over the 25 years of follow-up.

Findings: There were strong, graded and significant relationships between all heart-rate parameters and subsequent cancer deaths. After adjustment for age and tobacco consumption and, compared with the lowest quartile, those with the highest quartile for resting heart-rate had a relative risk of 2.4 for cancer deaths (95% confidence interval: 1.9-2.9, p<0.0001) This was similar after adjustment for traditional cardiovascular risk factors and was observed for the commonest malignancies (respiratory and gastrointestinal). Similarly, significant relationships with cancer death were observed between poor heart rate increase during exercise, poor decrease during recovery and greater heart-rate increase over time (p<0.0001 for all).

Interpretation: Resting and exercise heart rate had consistent, graded and highly significant associations with subsequent cancer mortality in men.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Heart Rate / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / mortality*
  • Paris
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors