Although previous studies have indicated that older adults with cancer have less risk of getting Alzheimer's disease, new research bolsters the theory with evidence that their memories are relatively better even before a cancer diagnosis.
A team of health experts found that “older individuals who developed cancer had better memory and slower memory decline” than those of similar age who never got cancer. The study's findings are based on the records of more than 14,500 U.S. adults who are now 70 or older; their health was tracked from 1998 to 2014.
The results, reported in JAMA Network Open, “support the possibility” that there is a common pathologic process that fosters cancer while preventing Alzheimer's.
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Previous studies had shown that those who already have cancer are less likely to develop dementia. The new study found that those who have not yet been diagnosed with cancer but are later on tend to have lower rates of cognitive decline than others both before and after the cancer diagnosis.
The researchers are uncertain of the reason but believe that genetic risk factors common to both diseases may be at play, though inversely so.
The study authors wrote that their analysis could provide the groundwork for further research into the treatment or prevention of Alzheimer's.