Scientists from the University of Alabama at Birmingham found cancer diagnosis linked to a lower risk of dementia.
With increased age comes the increased risk to develop cancer or dementia. Both conditions share similar risk factors such as hypertension and diabetes.
Many cancer patients experience cognitive impairment from cancer and its treatments with symptoms similar to dementia.
Prior research indicates a lower risk of dementia after a cancer diagnosis and vice versa. However, studies of the long-term effects are lacking.
In the study, the team examined the long-term relationship between the two conditions.
They showed dementia patients with cancer history had better cognition at dementia diagnosis and declined slower than dementia patients without a cancer history.
The findings suggest that, even in the long run, only around 20% of cancer patients develop dementia after their cancer diagnosis and those who do seem to experience better cognition at diagnosis and over time than those without a prior cancer diagnosis.
This link between cancer and a lower risk of dementia confirms similar results in the medical literature while also providing long-term evidence.
Overall, patients with one cancer diagnosis had an approximately 1.1-point higher cognitive baseline score and cognitive decline and seemed to progress slightly slower than non-cancer patients.
However, patients who had two or more cancer diagnoses saw an approximately 1.5-point lower cognitive score than those without a prior cancer diagnosis.
The next step is to ask why there is this overall inverse relationship and why two or more cancers seem to alter this link.
It could be because early signs of cognitive decline were captured earlier due to a cancer patient’s receiving frequent medical attention.
In addition, race, socioeconomic status, or other social determinants of health may affect the link.
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The research was published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and conducted by Mackenzie Fowler et al.
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