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Is Cancer Less Frequent in Patients with Dementia?

Summary and Comment |
April 11, 2014

Is Cancer Less Frequent in Patients with Dementia?

  1. Jaime Toro, MD

Faster cognitive decline may be associated with decreased risk for cancer.

  1. Jaime Toro, MD

Common signaling pathways that regulate cell death and survival suggest a decreased risk for cancer among people with age-related neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer disease (AD) or Parkinson disease (Neurology 2007; 69:1542). In some studies, AD has been longitudinally associated with reduced risk for cancer, and a history of cancer with reduced risk for AD. However, cancer might be underestimated after dementia is diagnosed.

In this population-based, prospective study, 2627 people aged 65 years or older without dementia throughout the study were administered a 37-item version of the mini-mental state examination (37-MMSE) at baseline and 3 years later. The 37-MMSE changes were divided into tertiles; the lowest tertile had a ≥2-point improvement in score, the highest tertile a ≥2-point decline in score.

After a median follow-up of 12.9 years, 1003 (38%) had died, including 339 individuals (34%) in the highest-tertile group and 664 (66%) in the other groups. Death from cancer was significantly less common in the highest-tertile group (21%) than in the others (29%).

Comment

In this study of community-dwelling elders without dementia, faster cognitive decline was associated with decreased cancer mortality. The notion that Alzheimer or Parkinson disease provides some type of protection against cancer has been raised recently, but no scientific rationale has been offered to explain this observation. However, some research suggests that Alzheimer disease and many cancers may share one or more molecular mechanisms (Neurology 2010; 74:100). Thus, the identification of molecular mechanisms linking cancer and AD may lead to new therapeutic targets and interventions.

  • Disclosures for Jaime Toro, MD at time of publication Editorial boards Multiple Sclerosis and Related Disorders

Citation(s):

Reader Comments (2)

JEFFERSON DICKEY Physician, Internal Medicine, Chicopee Medical Center

Is cognitive decline less frequent in cancer patients? Are demented patients capable of describing the symptoms which trigger an investigation which finds cancer?

MARYAM MATIN Physician, Geriatrics

Please correct: the opening sentence should be : decreased risk if cancer NOT Dementia
"Faster cognitive decline may be associated with decreased risk for dementia."

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