Alzheimer's and cancer, two dreaded diseases, may not like to cohabitate in the same body, at least for some populations. Those who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease may actually have some protection against cancer and vice versa, early research suggests.
When comparing elderly study participants that did not have Alzheimer’s disease to those with Alzheimer’s, it was found that they were much less likely to be diagnosed with cancer. AT the other end of the spectrum, elderly white patients that had cancer at the beginning of the study were much less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease, however, the lower risk was not seen in the other groups.
Several previous studies showed a lower incidence of cancer in the patients that had Parkinson’s disease, which, like Alzheimer’s, is a degenerative disorder that affects the brain. Newly published research suggests a similar link between Alzheimer’s disease and cancer. Catherine M. Roe, Ph.D., from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and lead researcher for the study, said, “This study adds to the literature suggesting that cancer and neurodegenerative diseases may be related.”
In an earlier study, Roe and her colleagues reported that elderly patients who suffered from Alzheimer’s developed cancer much later than patients without dementia. Also, the patients that had a history of cancer tended to be diagnosed with dementia later in life. However, it was not clear if the association was because of the confounding factors, such as the fact that patients with cancer often die before they can reach the high-risk age for Alzheimer’s disease and the patients that suffer for Alzheimer’s tend to be screened less for cancer. In the new study, Roe and her colleagues attempted to control for many of these potential factors.
The study included patients that suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, which is caused by a loss of nerve cells in the brain, and vascular dementia, which is caused by an impaired blood flow to the brain as a result of a stroke and other cardiovascular causes. In addition, approximately 3,000 people age 65 and older that were enrolled in a large heart health study were included in the analysis.