It is not entirely accurate to claim that the heart is the only organ in the human body never afflicted by cancer, but it is relatively rare for the heart to develop primary cancer. Primary cancer means that the cancer originates in that specific organ or tissue. The heart can be affected by cancer, but it is less common than cancer in other organs.
There are several reasons for the rarity of primary heart cancer (cardiac cancer):
- Low Mitotic Activity: The cells in the heart have a low rate of mitotic activity, which means they do not divide and replicate as frequently as cells in other rapidly dividing organs. Cancer often arises from uncontrolled cell division, and the low mitotic activity of cardiac muscle cells reduces the likelihood of mutations leading to cancer.
- Protective Pericardium: The heart is encased in a protective sac called the pericardium. This outer layer provides some protection against external factors that could contribute to the development of cancer.
- Vascular Supply: The heart has an extensive vascular supply that delivers oxygenated blood. This vascularization may help protect the heart from conditions that can lead to cancer since a robust blood supply supports healthy cell function.
- Detectability: Even when primary cardiac tumors do occur, they can be difficult to detect because the symptoms may be nonspecific or attributed to other heart conditions. Therefore, they may go undiagnosed for some time.
While primary cardiac cancer is rare, secondary or metastatic cancer can spread to the heart from other parts of the body. In such cases, it is often detected at advanced stages, making primary cardiac cancer even more exceptional.
It’s important to emphasize that the risk of primary heart cancer is very low. The heart is more commonly affected by non-cancerous conditions, such as heart disease. Nevertheless, early detection and appropriate medical care are essential for addressing any cardiac health concerns, including primary or secondary tumors that may affect the heart.