African-American women who are breast cancer survivors may be more likely to develop heart failure than their female counterparts of other ethnicities, according to findings presented at a meeting of the American College of Cardiology and reported by HealthDay News.

For the study, researchers reviewed data from more than 26,000 U.S. women diagnosed with breast cancer between 1973 and 2007. Findings showed that 16 percent of these patients later developed heart failure. Of those patients, 21 percent of African-American women experienced heart failure compared with 16 percent among whites, 13 percent among Hispanics, 12 percent among Asians and 11 percent among others, including Native Americans.

“In general, African-American women are more susceptible to heart problems as they are disproportionately affected by high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, high oxidative stress and even vitamin D deficiency,” said Anna Valina-Toth, MD, an internist and lead study investigator.

In addition, as a result of chemotherapy treatments, breast cancer survivors are more susceptible to heart failure. Two of the most effective treatment drugs—anthracycline and trastuzumab—can damage the heart, depending on the amount given to the patient. But other drugs, Valina-Toth said, protect the heart may help prevent this damage.

Researchers stressed that although the study did find a link between race, breast cancer and heart failure it did not prove that there is a cause-and-effect relationship.

Until scientists do more research, Valina-Toth suggested that close monitoring is necessary in order to detect the risk of heart failure earlier.

For more on breast cancer and ways to reduce risk, click here.