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Older people with Alzheimer's disease 'protected' from cancer

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Alzheimer’s disease and cancer may be mutually protective, new research has suggested.

Older people with Alzheimer’s are less likely than those free of the disease to have cancer - and cancer patients have a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease, the findings show.

“Since the number of cases of both Alzheimer’s disease and cancer increase exponentially as people age, understanding the mechanisms behind this relationship may help us better develop new treatments for both diseases,” said study leader Dr Massimo Musicco, from the Italian National Research Council in Milan.

Dr Musicco’s team monitored 204,468 people aged 60 and over in northern Italy over a period of six years.

During that time, 21,451 of the participants developed cancer and 2,832 were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

But just 161 had both cancer and Alzheimer’s disease - a much lower figure than expected.

Compared with the general population, the risk of cancer was halved in people with Alzheimer’s disease and the risk of Alzheimer’s was reduced by 35% in those with cancer.

The findings appear in the online issue of the journal Neurology.

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Readers' comments (3)

  • Having lost my 87 year old mother to Gall Bladder cancer last year who had been diagnosed with Alzheimers a year before, I'm not sure whether these findings should make us grateful or not! We did not witness our mother become incapacitated through Alzheimers, for which we were grateful, but had to instead see her physical state deteriorate, as happens with an untreatable malignancy.
    I did discuss with an Osteopath the fact that when mum was diagnosed with Alzheimers & commenced the appropriate drugs, her Arthritis ceased to be painful. Will this be the next study that has no real value to us?

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  • I'm doo lally half the time but happy if it means no cancer!

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  • brilliant initiative - dementia dogs in Scotland.

    once we were staying with friends and their corgi woke may parents in the middle of the night because the kettle had been left on the hob and it wasn't even trained to do that but just noticed something not right and perhaps associaated it with strangers in the house.

    if you can train guide dogs for the blind then dogs can surely be trained in a variety of skills to help those suffering from dementia, as well as giving them an occupation in looking after the dog and wonderful companionship - could help with the problems of wandering perhaps as well.

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