Study identified cancer as key independent predictor of memory problems

People with a history of cancer are more likely to experience memory impairment, according to data presented at the 2010 AACR Conference on The Science of Cancer Health Disparities.

Included in the study was data on 9,819 people who were at least age 40 years and from diverse education and racial-ethnic backgrounds. Of the group, 1,305 reported having cancer or a history of cancer. All participants had a physical examination and responded to a survey that included the question: “Are you limited in any way because of difficulty remembering or because you experience periods of confusion?”

The study's findings revealed that 14% of participants who had cancer reported memory impairment compared to 8% of participants who did not have cancer. In addition, those with cancer were 40% more likely to have memory issues than other participants.

“One of the most important parts of cancer treatment is management of symptoms, such as impairments in attention, memory, and fatigue, in order to improve a patient's quality of life,” said Pascal Jean-Pierre, PhD, MPH, assistant professor at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, department of pediatrics, and the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center. “This study suggests these memory issues are more common than had been recognized before, and should be assessed in all patients with a history of cancer.”

According to the press release announcing the findings, the study's findings, believed to be one of the first culled from a nationwide sample of people diagnosed with different cancers, mirror findings of cancer-related memory impairment in smaller studies of certain cancers, such as breast and prostate cancer.

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