People with cancer may be protected against Alzheimer’s disease and those with Alzheimer’s are less likely to develop cancer, according to a study published in Neurology (2010;74[2]:106-12).

To study the link between Alzheimer’s disease and cancer, Catherine Roe, PhD, of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, and a member of the American Academy of Neurology, and a team of researchers looked at a group of 3,020 people ≥65 years old who were enrolled in the Cardiovascular Health Study.

The study participants were followed for approximately 5 years to observe if they developed dementia and approximately 8 years to observe if they developed cancer. At the start of the study, 164 people already had Alzheimer’s disease and 522 people already had a cancer diagnosis.

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The results revealed that 478 people developed dementia and 376 people developed invasive cancer. For those who had Alzheimer’s disease at the start of the study, the risk of future cancer hospitalization was reduced by 69% compared to those who did not have Alzheimer’s disease when the study began.

The researchers also reported that the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease among Caucasian patients was reduced by 43% compared with people who did not have cancer at the start of the study, although that finding was not evident among minority groups.

“Discovering the links between these two conditions may help us better understand both diseases and open up avenues for possible treatments,” Dr Roe explained.