Thanks to early detection, the slow progression of the disease, and effective treatments, patients with prostate cancer often survive and live through the carcinoma.

What they need to be more concerned with, however, is the possible development of heart disease. A new study authored by Vanderbilt University researchers revealed that heart disease is the most common non-cancer cause of death among prostate cancer survivors.

With that, the university's cardio-oncology program is shifting its focus on toning down the risk factors for heart disease among patients, especially those who receive the prostate cancer treatment called androgen deprivation therapy (ADT).

"While ADT therapy is of great benefit to many patients with prostate cancer, it may also increase the risk of developing diabetes or having a heart attack or stroke," said Dr. Eric Shinohara, a radiation oncologist and a medical director at the university.

Shinohara and his colleagues will collaborate with the medical oncology, urology, and cardio-oncology programs to better understand which patients are most likely to benefit from ADT. Among those already getting the treatment, the team will figure out how to better protect the patients' cardiovascular system.

ADT lowers serum testosterone levels, which is the marker for prostate cancer as it can make the carcinoma grow or shrink more slowly.

Incidentally, the American Heart Association released a report in 2010 about the possible link between ADT and adverse cardiovascular events.

According to the Vanderbilt study, there seems to be an association between ADT and high levels of low-density lipoprotein and triglyceride, decreased lean body mass and increased fat, high insulin resistance and low glucose tolerance, as well as a metabolic state closely similar to metabolic syndrome.

Dr. Javid Moslehi, senior author of the study, said the aggressive treatment of the cardiovascular risk factors can be a vital step towards decreasing the risk of stroke and heart disease among patients.

"In general, cardiovascular wellness is an important aspect of care for all of the nearly 230,000 men newly diagnosed with prostate cancer each year in the U.S," added Moslehi.

Heart disease is the leading cause of mortality among men in the United States, regardless of whether they have prostate cancer or not.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 610,000 people in the country die of heart disease annually. More than half of heart disease-related deaths in 2009 were men.

The Vanderbilt study is featured in the journal Circulation.

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