Alzheimer's link to lower chance of getting cancer
A link between cancer and Alzheimer's disease could prevent elderly patients who suffer with one condition from developing the other, scientists claim.
Elderly people with Alzheimer's are 50pc less likely to develop cancer than other people of the same age, while those with cancer are at 35pc lower risk of Alzheimer's, researchers found.
Both conditions are linked to the ageing process, but cancer is caused by uncontrolled cell growth and Alzheimer's is characterised by the death of cells in the brain. The link could be explained by genes that raise the likelihood of one of these diseases arising, but simultaneously reduce the risk of the other, researchers explained.
The study, in the 'Neurology' journal, was the biggest yet to examine the link. Researchers from the National Research Council of Italy analysed the health records of 204,468 people aged 60 and above during a six-year period, including 21,451 cases of cancer and 2,832 of Alzheimer's, and found fewer people than expected developed both diseases.
The results were the same among people who had died during the study as those who were still living when it was completed, suggesting that lower life expectancy as a result of one disease did not account for the reduced risk of the other.
Dr Catherine Roe of Washington University in St Louis, who first reported the link in a 2005 paper, told 'New Scientist' magazine: "There may be some genetic factor that, if it's tipped one way, it may cause abnormal cell growth, and tipped another way, it may cause abnormal cell death." (© Daily Telegraph, London)