News for Durham and the Surrounding Area: Does Cancer Protect Against Alzheimer’s?

June 17, 2016 | By Lorenzo Mejia

Often studies claim that people with cancer are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s Disease. Many people seem to think that the same triggers that cause cancer will also prevent neurodegenerative disorders. However, there may be a more somber explanation. Many cancer patients don’t live long enough to develop Alzheimer’s. Researchers at the University of Utah have recently been studying this concept.

Their studies have found that age related diseases depend on someone surviving to the age where those diseases can occur such as Alzheimer’s. One study found that pancreatic cancer patient’s average age of death was 73, which is the same age that most Alzheimer’s patients are diagnosed. Alzheimer’s diagnosis tripled from age 75-89 increasing from 25 to 75 per 1000 people while it remained constant in patients with cancer at 20 per 1000 patients. The main point of the study was that as people age, they are more likely to be affected by numerous chronic illnesses or diseases. Those dying of lethal diseases simply lack time to develop other diseases.
After several different studies tracking elderly cancer patients with different types of cancer, three different statistical methods showed that cancer patients did not have a decreased risk for Alzheimer’s disease. The researchers concluded that when studying age related diseases, you have to consider how other chronic diseases and conditions impact them. One scientist likened getting shot to getting Alzheimer’s because most people would die from gunshot wounds. However, no one would say gunshot wounds protect against the disease.

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