Long-term cardiac mortality after hypofractionated radiation therapy in breast cancer

Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 2013 Oct 1;87(2):337-43. doi: 10.1016/j.ijrobp.2013.05.038. Epub 2013 Jul 23.


Purpose: To explore very-long-term mortality from ischemic heart disease (IHD) after locoregional radiation therapy of breast cancer (BC) in relation to degree of hypofractionation and other treatment variables.

Methods and materials: Two hypofractionated regimens used for locoregional radiation therapy for BC from 1975 to 1991 were considered. Patients received 4.3 Gy × 2/week (10 fractions; target dose 43 Gy; n=1107) or 2.5 Gy × 5/week (20 fractions; target dose 50 Gy; n=459). To estimate cardiac doses, radiation fields were reconstructed in a planning system. Time to death from IHD was the endpoint, comparing the groups with each other and with age-matched, cancer-free control individuals, modeled with the Cox proportional hazards model.

Results: Patients given 4.3 Gy × 10 had an increased risk of dying of IHD compared with both the 2.5 Gy group (hazard ratio [HR] = 2.37; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.06-5.32; P=.036) and the control group (HR = 1.59; 95% CI: 1.13-2.23; P=.008). Photon beams for parasternal fields gave an increased risk of dying of IHD compared with electron beams (HR = 2.56; 95% CI: 1.12-5.84; P=.025). Multivariate analysis gave an increased risk for the 4.3-Gy versus 2.5-Gy regimen with borderline significance (HR = 2.90; 95% CI: 0.97-8.79; P=.057) but not for parasternal irradiation.

Conclusions: The degree of hypofractionation and parasternal photon beams contributed to increased cardiac mortality in this patient cohort. Differences emerged after 12 to 15 years, indicating the need of more studies with observation time of 2 decades.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Breast Neoplasms / mortality
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Breast Neoplasms / radiotherapy*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Dose Fractionation, Radiation
  • Electrons / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • Heart Diseases / mortality
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Myocardial Ischemia / mortality*
  • Norway
  • Photons / therapeutic use
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult