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Darren R. Feldman, Wendy L. Schaffer and Richard M. Steingart

The introduction of cisplatin-based chemotherapy has transformed germ cell tumors (GCTs), the most common malignancy to affect young adult men, into a highly curable cancer, even in the setting of advanced disease. However, over the past decade, the success of these chemotherapy regimens in curing GCTs has been temporized by an increasing recognition of their important late toxicities, such as cardiovascular disease. The relative risk of coronary artery disease in this population is particularly elevated within the first 10 years of follow-up, when patients are still in their 30s and 40s, which are age groups often considered too young to experience cardiovascular events. Two hypotheses have been proposed to explain the association between chemotherapy and cardiovascular disease in this population. The direct hypothesis asserts that chemotherapy causes diffuse endothelial damage, including in the coronary arteries, gradually leading to cardiovascular disease. In contrast, the indirect hypothesis proposes that chemotherapy leads to an increased incidence of cardiovascular disease risk factors, such as hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and the metabolic syndrome, which in turn enhance the risk of cardiovascular disease. This article summarizes the data on the association between chemotherapy (predominantly cisplatin-based) and the development of cardiovascular disease among GCT survivors, and reviews the evidence supporting both mechanistic hypotheses. In addition, recommendations are provided for the management of GCT survivors who received cisplatin-based chemotherapy and are therefore at risk for cardiovascular toxicity.