24 December 2009

Are Alzheimer's disease and cancer inversely related?

A study published in the peer-reviewed journal Neurology reports that elderly persons with Alzheimer's have a reduced incidence of cancer, and those with cancer are less likely to have Alzheimer's symptoms.

Those who had Alzheimer's at the start of the study were 69% less likely to be admitted to hospital with cancer than those free of the disease at the start.

And those with cancer at the study's start were 43% less likely to develop Alzheimer's than the cancer free.

There are biological reasons why this relationship could be causal:

"Alzheimer's disease and cancer are both characterised by abnormal, but opposing, cellular behaviour.

"In Alzheimer's disease, excessive cell death occurs, whereas cancer is characterised by excessive cell growth..."

However, it is also possible that the symptoms of one disease may mask or prevent the diagnosis of the other disease, so more studies are necessary.


  1. Or maybe, just maybe, it's because cancer patiants die younger, thus not reaching the typical age for developping Alzheimer :P

  2. A relationship such as you postulate is easily controlled for during statistical analysis. Note this comment from the BBC article -

    "...the association between Alzheimer's and cancer was not simply due to people with those conditions dying before they could contract the other ailment."


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