A new study shows that elderly people who show symptoms of dementia but do not yet have Alzheimer’s have a 30 percent lower risk of dying from cancer.
Completed by Dr. Julian Benito-León of the Complutense University in Madrid, the study looked at 2,627 participants who were over 65 years of age.
The participants were given tests to assess their memory and thinking skills at the beginning of the study and then again after three years. The seniors were divided into three groups: those whose scores were declining the fastest, those whose scores improved, and those who were in the middle. Each participant was followed for an average of about 13 years.
During the course of the study, 1,003 participants died, 34 percent of which were a part of the fastest decline group. 21 percent of the fastest decline deaths were due to cancer.
In comparison, 29 percent of the deaths in the other groups were caused by cancer.
Even when variables were adjusted for factors such as smoking, diabetes, and heart disease, patients in the fastest decline group were still 30 percent less likely to die of cancer.
“We need to understand better the relationship between a disease that causes abnormal cell death and one that causes abnormal cell growth,” Dr. Benito-León said. “With the increasing number of people with both dementia and cancer, understanding this association could help us better understand and treat both diseases.”
Unfortunately, scientists still don’t understand the exact link between the two diseases. The study does help discount one one theory that seniors with Alzheimer’s disease simply failed to report their cancer symptoms, however.
The study joins the growing research that connects neurodegenerative diseases and cancer. A 2013 report showed that Alzheimer’s patients were half as likely to develop cancer and cancer patients were 35 percent less likely to develop Alzheimer’s.
Photo by fechi fajardo